Trees, like people, can get sick. And when they do, they need help.
One of the common questions we get asked over and over again here at Heritage Tree Care, is, “What’s the matter with my tree?” Trees are a wonderful addition to any environment, and it can be distressing when a tree starts to show signs that it’s not doing so well. To make things worse, a tree that’s developing problems can quickly become a dangerous tree. Dead or decaying branches can drop suddenly and without warning, posing a significant safety risk. As well, sick and damaged trees can fall and cause enormous damage to buildings, cars, landscapes, equipment – and people.
It’s not a situation you want to be in. It’s extremely important to deal with a sick tree before it becomes a big problem – and, as with most things in life, early treatment is best.
So, if you think your tree may be unwell, it’s time to call in the tree care professionals to take a look and get to work returning your tree to good health. And how do you know when to call? Here are the signs of tree ill health to look for.
The support structure of the tree, the trunk is an important part of good tree health.
When assessing a tree trunk, look for
- Cracks or splits in the trunk that penetrate deeper than the bark level
Some cracks in tree trunks are perfectly normal, but deeper ones can be a sign of a potentially dangerous or sick tree that needs professional help.
It’s obviously going to be hard to spot problems with the roots, and while the roots are the least vulnerable part of the tree, they can develop serious issues such as root rot.
While you can’t usually see the roots, you can look for other signs of root problems, such as:
- Wilted or yellow leaves in summer (a sign of root rot)
- Small sprouts coming from the base of the trunk, which is an indicator of stress
- Severed roots
- Uneven ground
- Signs of decay, such as fungi around the roots
The outer layer of the tree provides protection to everything inside, and when it’s unhealthy, all the other parts of the tree will suffer as well. In fact, significant damage to the bark can sometimes kill a tree.
Look for bark that is:
- Moist or weeping
- Flaking, peeling or falling off the tree
- Brittle or crumbling
- Spongy to the touch
- Covered in fungus or showing signs of fungal attack
All of these are reliable signs that the tree is sick.
There’s no doubt about it, weakened or damaged branches are dangerous for everyone’s safety, and can be sign that the tree is significantly damaged.
Look for branches that are:
- Weak and drooping
- Dry (test this by snapping it – if a branch is dry and snaps it’s already dead)
You’ll need to ensure a tree care specialist removes the dead or damaged branches, and inspects the entire tree for any diseases or problems.
When you notice changes in trees that are normally covered with a crown of healthy foliage, it can be a strong indicator of a problem.
- A tree not producing leaves (especially in spring and summer)
- Dead leaves clinging to branches on deciduous trees during winter
- Thinning of the leaves in sections of the canopy
- Dropping leaves more than normal
- Discoloured leaves (apart from the usual changing of the seasons)
- Wilting or dying leaves
- Damaged leaves
Any of these might be signs of disease, a nutrition problem or a lack of water or sunlight.
Sick trees are often caused by pest invasion, and there are plenty of common pests in Australia that can cause prolific problems. Pests such as borers, termites, wood wasps and leaf beetles can do a whole heap of damage if left unchecked.
Signs that your tree is harbouring pests include:
- Round-shaped holes in the branches and trunk
- Wood shavings or sawdust
- Termite nests around the base of the tree
- Scattergun damage to leaves (leaves full of holes)
- Mud tubes on the bark
- Cracked or lifted bark
- Leaking or oozing sap
- Leaf curling
- Tree dieback
Pest invasions can be extremely serious, and need some quick intervention to prevent irreversible tree damage.
While not part of the tree, the soil can be a good indicator that something is wrong with your tree.
- Soil disturbance, which can destabilise the tree
- Soil that’s too high around the trunk and is suffocating the root system
- Waterlogged or compressed soil, which can cause the tree to become unstable and crooked
- Dry or cracked soil, indicating the tree is not getting enough water
Soil can tell you a lot about tree health, so don’t ignore it when assessing your problem.
The growth pattern
An unusual growth pattern may be an indicator that something is wrong with a tree, and can be a sign that the tree is suffering from a problem caused by fungi, bacteria or insects.
- Swelling or usual bumps on the tree
- Wounds on the trunk, bark or branches
As well, if a young tree’s growth has slowed or stunted, that may also indicate a problem that needs addressing.
Heed your tree’s warning signs
All of these warning signs indicate that the health of your tree is being threatened – and it’s time to act. Given the long time trees take to grow, it’s far easier and more time-effective to treat the sick tree rather than plant another one. So, what do you need to do to nurse your tree back to health?
The DIY route
You could try and treat the tree yourself, but the chances of knowing exactly what’s wrong and how to best fix it are slim, unless you’re an arborist or horticulturalist yourself. There are an enormous number of things that can go wrong with a tree, and effective treatment will depend on the tree’s unique location, situation and circumstances. There’s only so much a Google search will tell you about your tree’s specific problem. It’s usually far better to consult your local Brisbane tree care professionals so that your tree can be diagnosed and treated much quicker and have a far better chance of recovery. You can rest assured, knowing that the job will be done right instead of hoping, praying and leaving things to chance and trying to do it yourself.
Using a professional
Using tree care services is hands down the best way to deal with a sick, stressed or dying tree. You can’t fix a problem unless you know what is wrong – and knowing what is wrong can be extremely difficult without expert knowledge. A qualified arborist can identify the problem, treat the issue quickly and effectively and minimise any damage. In the worst-case scenario, if your tree is too far gone and can’t be saved, they can remove the tree safely and prevent any disease from spreading to other trees. But if there’s a way to save the tree, you can bet a good tree care specialist will be able to find it and apply it.
Heritage Tree Care are the experts in tree services in Brisbane and the surrounding areas, and our high level of care results in healthier trees, lower risks, reduced maintenance costs and increased aesthetic values. We use a scientific approach to diagnosing tree problems, using soil biology and chemistry analysis and remediation, allowing us to quickly and effectively treat sick trees. Get in contact to find out how our diverse team of industry-leading professionals can restore your tree to good health.