5 Signs Your Tree Needs Professional Care

A massive maple tree limb crashing through your roof during a storm is a tree owner’s worst nightmare. Unfortunately, such disasters could often be prevented by taking notice of early warning signs of tree instability or disease. Tree health dramatically impacts safety, property values, and quality of living for you and your neighbors. That’s why it’s so important to keep a close eye on trees in your yard and know when it’s time to call a professional arborist for evaluation and care.

While some tree issues take years to develop, many worrisome signs can be spotted simply by looking up into your tree’s canopy or down at the base and roots. In this article, we’ll cover the top 5 signs that your tree likely needs professional arboricultural care. Being able to identify these red flags can help you take action to improve tree health and prevent costly damage before it’s too late. Let’s get started by looking above ground first.

1. Dead or Dying Limbs

lichen growth on trees

One of the most obvious signs that a tree needs care is if it has dead or dying limbs. These limbs will look brittle, dried out and often won’t have any leaves or needles on them even during the growing season.

There are a few potential causes for dead and dying limbs:

                    • Disease – Certain fungal infections like verticillium wilt or bacterial infections can infect the vascular system of a tree and cause the limbs to die. These diseases spread through the tree’s circulatory system
  • Improper Pruning – If limbs are pruned improperly by cutting into the branch collar or leaving too long of a stub, it can lead to decay and death of the remaining limb.
  • Insect Damage – Boring insects like emerald ash borer can feed on and damage the vascular tissues of the tree causing branches to die.
  • Girdling Roots – Sometimes tree roots can wrap around the base and cut off circulation, leading to death of the limbs above the girdled roots.

If left untreated, dead and dying limbs pose a significant risk. They are more likely to break off and fall, especially during high winds. They also provide an entry point for diseases and insects to further infest the tree. Removing these limbs through proper pruning can halt the spread of disease and reduce safety hazards.

2. Weak Branch Attachments

emergency service after storm

One sign that a tree may need professional care is if it has weak branch attachments. This occurs when branches connect to the trunk with included bark, which means the bark grows up inside the branch union. This leads to a weak attachment point that is more likely to break, especially during storms. Weak branch attachments pose safety issues because those branches can break off at any time. If they are hanging above your home or powerlines, it presents a major hazard. Even if they fall in your yard, a large falling branch can still cause damage and injuries. Weak branches are also more prone to breaking when weighted down by heavy snow or ice in the winter.

Checking for weak branch attachments is important for tree health and safety. Arborists can inspect the tree and identify any problematic branches that should be removed. Cabling and bracing can also reinforce weak attachments to make them more secure. But it’s not something that homeowners can easily fix themselves, so bringing in professionals is key. Taking care of weak branch attachments helps prevent future damage to your home or electrical lines, and will improve the structure and health of your tree.

3. Cankers or Holes

middleton tree removal

Cankers and holes in a tree’s bark are signs of potential disease or insect infestation. Cankers are sunken or discolored areas on the bark, often with oozing sap. They indicate fungal infections or bacteria that have entered through wounds or existing bark openings. Holes can be small round openings from wood-boring insects like bark beetles, or larger irregular holes from woodpecker damage as they dig out larvae under the bark.

Both cankers and holes weaken the protective outer bark layer, allowing further disease and pests to enter the tree. Fungal cankers like anthracnose or cytospora may girdle branches or the trunk, cutting off nutrient flow. Cankers may also crack open in wet weather, exposing inner wood tissues. Holes and tunnels from boring insects like emerald ash borer can severely impact the vascular system.

Professional arborists have methods to treat cankers and insect infestations through fungicides, insecticides, or trunk injections in some cases. However, extensive damage will require pruning out the infected wood or even full tree removal. Early intervention gives the best chance of saving the tree. So keeping an eye out for small holes, oozing wounds, and discolored sunken bark can help catch issues before they threaten the life of the tree.

4. Sparse Foliage

large tree in fall

A healthy tree should have leaves or needles all along its branches during the growing seasons. If your tree has bare branches or an overall sparse look even during the times it should be foliated, it likely indicates an underlying issue. There are a few key signs of abnormal foliage loss or sparseness to look out for:

  • Leaves that are yellow, wilted, or curled could reflect improper watering, disease, or pest problems affecting the tree’s health. Make note if the sparseness seems localized or widespread across the whole tree.
  • A lack of new growth or shoots emerging during the spring. Healthy deciduous trees should put out fresh, light colored leaves each year. Conifers also produce new, brighter green shoots annually. If this growth is minimal or absent, it’s a red flag.
  • Evidence of pests like tent caterpillars or signs of fungal disease. Look for webs, cocoons, speckling damage, discolored blotches on leaves, or abnormal growths. Infestations and infections can impair the tree’s ability to produce foliage.

Sparseness restricted to one part of the tree may indicate a more localized issue, like a damaged root or branch preventing nutrients from reaching that area. Widespread thin foliage generally reflects a problem affecting the whole tree. Whether the cause is environmental stress, pests, disease, or simply old age, professional arborist care is recommended whenever a tree’s leaf or needle density seems compromised. They can assess the situation and help get your tree back to a lush, healthy state.

5. Mushrooms at Base

medford tree service

Mushrooms sprouting from the ground around your tree’s base are a major red flag. Though some mushroom growth is natural in forest settings, mushrooms growing on your lawn near a tree mean the tree is decaying and rotting from the inside. The mushrooms are the “fruiting body” of fungus and fungal networks growing within the tree’s roots and trunk. Their presence signals the fungus is feeding on the dead, decaying woody mass. This fungal feeding leads to internal rot and decay, severely weakening the roots and structural integrity. In fact, research using advanced tomography imaging shows trees with mushrooms have vastly more internal rot than they appear on the outside. The fungus has likely spread throughout the core, hollowing the trunk or roots. Visibly, you may notice thin foliage, dead limbs, or cavities. But major decay is also hidden from view. The fungal networks can spread unseen like hidden cancer. As they expand and eat away at the wood’s cellulose and lignin, your tree becomes prone to breaking and falling. So mushrooms at the base mean a diseased, dying tree. The roots are compromised and the trunk is unstable. The tree has become a hazard needing removal. Even with treatment, restoration is unlikely. Fungal decay cannot be stopped once so advanced.

Regularly inspecting the trees on your property and being aware of signs of distress can help ensure the health and safety of your landscape. If you notice any of the following signs, it may be time to call a certified arborist:

  • Dead or dying limbs
  • Weak branch attachments
  • Cankers, holes or cracks in the trunk
  • Sparse foliage
  • Mushrooms at Base

Taking care of issues early is key to saving your trees. Small problems can worsen over time and become hazards if left untreated. Using a certified arborist ensures proper diagnosis and care methods that promote tree health. They have the knowledge and tools to provide solutions while minimizing harm.

emergency tree service tree fall on house

Don’t wait until it’s too late – the next storm or season may cause further deterioration. Take action by requesting a free consultation and inspection from a licensed arborist in your area. Investing in professional tree care helps protect your landscape investment and prevent expensive repairs from damage or removal down the road. Making tree health a priority now keeps your property safe for years to come.

For top-notch tree trimming, choose local heroes at Kelly Tree Service. With unmatched dedication and years of expertise in Woburn, they’re your go-to for tree care. Call (617) 841-7322 or visit https://kellytree.com to start your tree trimming journey.