Dead or Alive: The Basics of a Tree's Life
- Written by Grayson Wise
Trees can withstand a lot. Actually, not just can, but they do withstand a lot of hard conditions. Extreme weather, pesky insects, and other little critters contribute to the life of the tree. Trees experience everything, and for a long time, your tree will successfully stand against the “wear-and-tear” it experiences without complications. However, sometimes your tree just might be dying from all its years alive. There are some crucial signs to look for from the trunk, branches, roots, and other elements of nature to know if your tree is on the brink of death.
One of the simplest ways to determine if you have a dying tree on your hands is by observing the trunk. If you notice vertical cracks on the tree, it might be time to start looking deeper into the tree’s vitality. Other important signs are missing bark and areas of dead bark around the trunk. Another way that is particularly useful to test the tree’s lifeline is the scratch test.
Directly below the outer layer of bark, there is a layer of bark called the cambium. If that cambium layer is green, your tree is alive and thriving. However, if the cambium layer is brown and dry, the tree is dead. To perform the scratch test, use your fingernail or a small knife to remove a small piece of the exterior bark. It is unnecessary to remove a lot of the tree bark, as it could damage your tree if it is already alive. You just need enough to take a peek at the cambium layer.
The second method for determining if the tree is dead or alive involves looking at the tree’s branches. One obvious tell-tell sign that your tree is dying is by peering at the leaves on the tree. If you notice that leaves are falling before the correct season, it might be worthwhile to check out how the tree is doing. Also, if your tree is holding onto dead leaves, this could be another warning sign that the tree is dead, or close to death. Lastly, if the branches are producing brown and brittle leaves during its growing season, that is definitely not a good sign!
If you notice a significant lean that developed almost suddenly, that usually entails a deadly problem with the tree’s roots. The second root sign to watch for is the texture of the roots. If they become slimy and oozy, your tree is sadly dying.
Elements of Nature
No matter how beautiful those little bunches of mushrooms growing on your tree are, they just might be an indication of a dying tree. Usually, when you notice fungus growing around and on the tree, it can mean that the tree is rotting inside. It may look dandy and alive on the exterior, but don’t let its beauty fool you. Lastly, another one of nature’s elements that indicate a dying tree is insects. Not all insects of course, but specifically be on the watch for bark beetles and carpenter ants. When those critters are around, that is not usually a good sign.
A dying tree is a sad moment, but no need to fear! If you properly take care of your trees, plant carefully, and take precautions in extreme weather conditions, you can help extend the life of your tree. Of course, the tree’s death cannot always be prevented, but with a little extra love, you are sure to have happier and healthier trees no matter what life throws at it.