If you have purchased a home on property with large, older trees it is more than likely that you will experience one or more of these trees dying over the course of time you own this house. When you aren’t familiar with the maintenance of large trees or landscaping in general you might not know how to tell if a tree is dying and what you should do about it. Here’s how to tell if you have a dead tree.

Bare Branches

Are there any leaves or flowers on the branches of the tree, especially when it’s supposed to be in season? One of the most obvious signs of a dead tree is when the branches are still bare even when the tree is supposed to be in full bloom.

Trunk Damage

Are there any cracks on the trunk of the tree you suspect to be dead? A tree will naturally shed its bark, but on a healthy tree new bark will grow in its place. So if your tree has bare, smooth wood patches or the trunk is obviously cracked then your tree may be dying. What’s more is that if there’s been any trauma to the tree, like perhaps was backed into by car, then that trauma may cause permanent damage too.


If there’s fungus growing on your tree, then it’s likely the tree is dead and is rotting internally. Take a good look all around the trunk of the tree to see if there’s anything growing there that shouldn’t be.

Damaged Roots

Since the roots of trees are underground it might be really difficult to tell if they’re damaged especially with very large, old trees. However one of the most obvious signs of root damage is a lean of the tree. If the tree is obviously leaning one way or another and isn’t standing straight up then you might have damaged roots. Some of the causes of this are excavation projects, exposure to extreme elements, shallow roots or even poor soil compaction. If a tree has damaged roots it is more than likely the tree is going to die if it hasn’t already. To avoid the tree from rotting and causing further issues on your property you may want to take the time now to dig it up and plant a new one.

While it isn’t necessarily dangerous to have a dying, or dead, tree on your property it may just cause you issues. For example, a dead tree may snap and fall over leading to damage to your home or cars. If you know a tree has died it’s always best to get it dug up and removed. You can select to plant a new one if you’d like or simply plant grass or flowers over it. It may be difficult to completely determine if the tree can be saved or not, but you can always call in a certified arborist to come out and assess the situation for you.

Up Next – Removing a tree from your yard