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Property Managers: How To Tell If A Tree Is Dead In 7 Easy Steps

by Emily Durgan | Fri, Jul 24, 2015

identifying tree sickness is important before it causes serious damageTrees provide a lot of benefits to landscaping. They’re attractive with lush leaves and sometimes flowers, and they provide shade as well as privacy. But trees can be dangerous if not attended to, given their large size and weight.

We get questions from property managers asking us how to tell if a tree is dead or diseased on their grounds. We tell them that sometimes it takes a landscaping specialist to determine a tree’s health status, but sometimes there are clues that anyone can follow.

While dead trees should be removed from the property, it can be problematic if a tree is diseased too. Without proper care, a diseased tree can cause many of the same problems as a dead tree (which we’ll discuss more in depth below).

It’s important to identify any tree sickness as well, so the tree can be nursed back to health or removed before it causes serious damage.

How To Tell If A Tree Is Dead Or Dying

Here are seven steps a property manager can take to determine if a tree is dead, diseased or dying.

No Leaves

Of course we’ve all seen trees that have been dead a long time, weathered with no leaves, no growth and bare branches making dramatic silhouettes against the sunset. If you have dead trees on your property, they probably don’t look like that or they would have been removed long ago.

But if your tree is no longer producing leaves, take note — it’s probably dead.

The Twig Test

Break off a twig. Is it green inside or it’s tough to break? If yes, then it’s still alive. Twigs that are lightweight, snap easily and are brown inside are dead. Just because there’s a dead twig doesn’t mean the whole tree is dead. Try a few more twigs. If many (but not all) are dead, perhaps part of the tree has died.

Scratch The Trunk

It may be hard to reach the twigs, so you can also scratch the trunk to see if it’s green underneath. If your tree has several trunks that grew together to make a large tree, make sure to check each trunk.

Look At The Leaves

If your tree has leaves, but they look funky, that could indicate a diseased tree. The leaves might have changed colors in some or all areas of the tree, shriveled up, or look different compared to the same type tree in another area of your property.

Open Wounds

open wounds and no leaves are two ways to tell if a tree is deadIf your tree looks like it has an open wound or a soft spot on it, this can cause the tree to start rotting or decaying. Not only does that look bad, it can compromise your tree’s structure and stability.


On top of the bark, do you see fungus? Trees often rot from the inside, so you may not see the rotting until it’s too late. But the presence of fungus can alert you.

Split Tree Bark

If you find cracks in your tree’s bark, that might mean your tree isn’t stable in high winds, or the soil is shifting and causing the tree to move unevenly.

Problems with Ignoring a Dead Tree

Dead trees don’t have a solid root structure to keep them stable in the ground. Think about hurricane season. They can fall over at any time, damaging surroundings like buildings, cars, grass, shrubs, other landscaping, and most importantly, people.

A dead tree is a safety hazard and liability. Even if some of the branches are dead, those branches should be removed.

Diseased trees might need removal as well, depending on how much of the tree is affected and how extensive and debilitating the disease is.

Need A Tree Doctor? GreenEarth Is In

A dead tree is a safety hazard and liability.A tree expert at GreenEarth can inspect your trees to give a professional opinion on whether they’re healthy, diseased but can be maintained or diseased/dead and should be removed.

It’s important to do a yearly inspection of trees on your property, to ensure their health and your property’s safety.

The experts at GreenEarth can inspect your trees and remove trees that are dead or dying. Removing a tree is specialized work, often involving chain saws, cranes and large trucks — along with a good deal of elbow grease. GreenEarth Landscape Services is equipped and experienced to do these types of jobs.

From planting to removal, if you’d like a consultation or want to know what we can do to help you, give us a call at our Panama City Beach office at (850) 236-1959, or call our Santa Rosa Beach office at (850) 267-0010 to set up an appointment. You can also fill out the online form on our website to schedule a consultation.


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Images: Dead leaves, Bleeding bark, Dead palm tree

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