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You look out your kitchen window and, well, something’s not right with the trees along the back of your property. There’s one tree in particular — a big one — that doesn’t look too hot.

Then questions start running through your head:

Is that on our property?

Is it dying? Is it dead?

Will it recover?

Can I just ignore it?

Our advice: If it looks bad, never ignore it.

From tree fertilization to pruning to removal, Neave’s tree care company experts have seen and done it all over the years. We know the telltale signs a tree is dying. If you suspect something’s up with the health of one or more of your trees, you might be right.

How To Tell If A Tree Is Dying — 5 Red Flags

To better assess your tree’s health, it’s a good idea to identify some common sick tree symptoms. The following five signs will help you identify a dying tree on your property.

Tree Branches Dying

If branches are dropping from your tree, that’s a big red flag — especially if the branches appear dry and brittle. Now passing storms and strong winds are the common cause for most downed branches, but a dying tree will lose more branches than usual in this type of situation.

When you find fallen branches, observe them closely. Is it bare of leaves? Or showing signs of rot or insect damage? Many times a closer look will help you understand what’s really going on with the tree in question.

Pro Tip: Grab a small branch or twig that’s fallen on your property. Now try to snap it in half. Was the wood lighter in weight and did it break easily with little resistance or bending? If so, we might consider that “deadwood” and a sign that your tree is sick. If the wood’s still green, that’s a great sign.

Falling Leaves

We associate falling leaves with autumn — and that makes perfect sense. If you begin to notice tree leaves dropping quickly or in an unusually large amount during other times of the year, that can tip you off to a sick tree. Also, during the normal spring and summer growing season, wilting, shriveled or discolored brittle leaves are a sick tree symptom.

Tree Trunk Health

How does the bark look? Dents, cracks and holes are signs of a deeper problem, literally. And missing bark near the base of a branch can mean a weak branch union — aka the strength of the connection between the trunk and the branch.

Pro Tip: Similar to our twig test, you can begin to learn the health of your tree by scratching the bark on the trunk of the tree. A promising sign is bark that’s pliable. On the contrary, sick trees either have significant bald spots or bark that’s brittle and easy to remove.

Tree Root Damage

If you have a tree that’s starting to resemble the Leaning Tower of Pisa, there’s a good chance its roots are in dire straits.

Okay, so trees don’t always have to grow perfectly straight to be healthy trees, but ones that lean are more likely to experience cracking and falling. If your tree has root damage, the whole tree will be affected. Some visible signs that show your tree has damaged roots or are at risk of injury include exposed tree roots and cracked or uplifted soil at the base of the tree.


From lawn to tree, the presence of fungi generally indicates the presence of some underlying bad news for homeowners. If you spot mushrooms growing on a tree trunk or around its base, it’s highly likely your entire tree is decaying from the inside out.

Why Ignoring A Dead or Dying Tree Is A Bad Idea

Appearance isn’t the only reason to address that sickly tree in your yard. Safety and disease spread are two other big concerns.

Think about it: A dead or dying tree is a significantly weaker tree. A tree with a compromised, shallow root system can topple during the next strong storm. How close is the tree to your home? Dead branches can and will fall without warning. If your outdoor space is a place you and your family spend time, don’t put their safety at risk.

As for tree disease, this can spread from one tree to the next if conditions are right and treatment is delayed — turning what could have been an isolated incident into an expensive, full-blown endemic.

The same goes for tree pests. Dying and dead trees have a way of inviting unwanted guests to your property — aphids, rats, termites, etc.

Neave Knows Tree Health Care

Tree diseases, pest infestations, sick tree treatment — these are not those easy-to-handle gardening issues. These landscape concerns are better left to a professional who can accurately diagnose what’s going on in your yard and then follow up with an effective treatment before things get out of hand.

Ideally, the best solution is to be proactive. At Neave Lawn Care, we employ a team of highly skilled, talented and devoted arborists that specialize in plant health care (PHC). We are committed to monitoring the health of your trees, using preventive treatments.

We combine our plant and tree health care because of the simple fact that these organisms usually share the same soil. That’s why Neave Lawn Care takes a holistic approach to plant and tree health care. Our PHC programs are tailored and personalized for each client. This is because every property and client we have has a different set of conditions.

These programs can include the following types of tree services:

To get started with Neave Lawn Care all you have to do is contact us to schedule your free site assessment. A plant and tree health care specialist will visit your property, listen to any concerns you may have while surveying your plants and trees for any potential issues.

If you’re in the Hudson Valley, call us at (845) 463-0592. If you’re in Westchester County, call (914) 271-7996; from Connecticut, dial (203) 212-4800. Or fill out our contact form, and we’ll contact you about setting up your free consultation.


new york and connecticut landscape maintenance


Images: Dying oak tree, Forest

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FREE Landscape Care & Maintenance Guide

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