General Tips, Tree Care, Tree Health, Tree Inspection

Signs & Symptoms of a Sick Tree

James / October 7, 2018

How to Tell if a Tree is Sick

All illnesses have symptoms. If there is something affecting the body, then the body will somehow try to show it so that it gets treatment. Whenever trees are sick, they give off signs and symptoms. There is the only way to know this though, and that is by knowing what those signs are.

Twig Test

A twig test is actually one of the simplest and most effective ways to check out the health of a tree. You just need to take a tree from a branch and open it. Inside you’ll find one of three different colors, which will tell you the health of the tree. A bright green hue means that the tree is in perfect shape. If you see a dark green color, the tree is sick and you’ll need to find the cause.

Actually, you can get an idea of the tree’s health before you even open up a twig. If the twig broke off easily, it means it’s dead and the whole tree is affected. This means your tree is dying or is already dead. You’ll also see that the inside of the twig is brown. In these cases, you have to break off more trees to know if it’s just one branch that has been affected or if it’s the whole tree. Assuming it’s only one branch, the tree is sick but is thankfully not dead.

Tree Bark

Tree bark is a pretty good indicator of the tree’s health, as it’s going to be affected if the tree gets sick at all. Bark damage might mean decay, disease or infect infestations depending on the case. The tree naturally grows, and its outer layer of bark falls away as a new layer grows to replace it. If your tree is sick, it won’t have the strength to create a new layer. This leaves bald spots, so be wary of them when checking your tree.

Fungus on the trunk and bark is one of the worst signs you can see. Because fungal growth usually happens after internal rot, this means the inside of the tree has already been affected. This is not certain, as only an arborist can tell you in detail what happened to the tree.


It is very easy to look up at the tree and look at the foliage. If there are branches without leaves during the seasons they should have them, odds are that the branch is dead. It can even be a sign of an illness in the root or trunk. In general, if there are bare patches or if your tree is losing leaves when it shouldn’t, that’s a sign to look out for.