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Tree Talk - Metropolitan Forestry Services

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April 30, 2021

Sick or Dying Tree: Signs & Symptoms

There may be a time when a beloved tree in your yard starts showing evidence of decline. Sometimes it’s a sudden change, other times it  may go unnoticed. For example, when it’s late fall or winter and the foliage has already been shed, a tree’s demise is often mistaken for natural dormancy. Knowing the health status of the trees in your yard is an important way to avoid risk not only to your home and family, but of the surrounding neighbors’ properties near the tree as well. Give the tree a thorough examination from the base to the topmost branches. A few common warning signs to watch out for include:

Unusual Foliage

Are there leaves on the tree? If so, how do they look? Are they off color? Do they have any spots? Foliage issues may be nothing to worry about, but could possibly be signs of a nutrient deficiency or an infection.

Poor structure

Check your tree for an unnatural growth pattern such as a lopsided crown or leaning more to one side. Storm damage, incorrect planting, and poor pruning are often to blame for this.


This one can be hard to spot, as decay usually affects the inside of the tree first. Visually check the trunk and root flare for mushrooms, swollen areas, dead branches, and soft breakable wood. Sometimes decay can have a peculiar odor as well.

Weak unions or joints

Weak branch attachment could result in failure at any time. A great example is the Bradford (Callery) Pear tree. These soft-wooded trees often have branches growing close together. Branches that have bark trapped in the union are significantly weaker than those that do not have bark included.


Overall, cracks don’t necessarily hurt the tree unless they become too deep and affect the tree’s infrastructure and branches or if they host detrimental pests.


A tree canker is caused by bacteria/fungi that infect a tree through an open wound. Once inside it attacks the tree and causes it stress, and in turn, a canker.


This is exactly what it sounds like; wood that is dead. The branches are usually dry and easy to break.

If you ever have any concerns about the health of your trees, whatever the case may be, don’t hesitate to contact one of our professionally trained and certified arborists here at Metropolitan Forestry Services. You can contact our offices by phone at (636)-394-6597 or by email at mfs@metropolitanforestry.com. We are always here to help!

Multiple branches attached at the same point on the stem caused catastrophic failure of the crown of this tree
Hypoxylon canker
canker on the trunk of a honeylocust
hanging deadwood poses an obvious risk

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Our goal is to provide you with the best possible service. If you are not satisfied with any treatment or completed job, we will resolve the situation to your satisfaction. We want to do our utmost to ensure your trees and shrubs are always 'green and growing'.