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9 Cautionary Signs Your Tree May Fall & The Next Steps to Take

November 4, 2020

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How can you tell if your tree is going to fall? This is a very important question, as a dead and diseased tree is unsightly and unattractive and might also host bothersome pests, while a tree at risk of falling is downright dangerous!

Nine common signs that your tree is going to fall include:

1.   A hole in the trunk

2.   Missing bark

3.   Deep cracks in the bark

4.   Dead or falling branches

5.   Branch clusters

6.   Severe leaning

7.   Leaf loss

8.   Root rot

9.   Infestation

While a falling tree might risk property damage and injury to anyone in the immediate vicinity, the good news is that a tree rarely topples without first showing warning signs of damage and decay! Knowing these signs allows you to call a tree trimming company or arborist as needed, as they can then advise the best way to salvage that tree or determine if it needs removal.

old oak tree

Understanding what causes severe tree damage also helps you to avoid that damage in the first place, ensuring your trees stay healthy for as long as possible! Before you risk the loss of a beautiful tree or property damage caused by a falling tree, check out a few ways to tell if your tree is going to fall and how to address that unhealthy tree as well.

1. Holes Might Indicate the Tree is Decaying and Ready to Fall

Many insect varieties bore through tree trunks, leaving behind small holes and openings. Woodpeckers might also peck away at a trunk or branch, leaving behind chips and holes. In many cases, these holes are natural and benign.

However, trees themselves might drop or prune branches, leaving behind large holes in the trunk. While dropping branches allows a tree to receive more oxygen and sunlight, the hole left behind can then decay, or allow for pest infestation. If there is sound, healthy wood around that hole in the trunk, the tree is most likely able to thrive; if there is dead or decaying wood around that wound, the tree is at risk of falling!

2. Missing Bark Means an Unhealthy Tree in Need of TLC

Bark is vital for tree health! Bark helps spread moisture up the length of the tree while also protecting wood from damage. Missing bark is called girdling, while bare spots, indentations, and other bark damage is called cankers.

Bark falling off a tree often indicates insect infestation or disease; animals might also attack a tree or eat bark when they cannot find another food source. Whatever the cause, large patches of missing bark might signal that the tree is weakened and at risk of falling.

3. Deep Bark Cracks Mean Tree Weakness and the Risk of Falling

A tree covered in bark doesn’t automatically mean that it’s healthy and strong! Cankers in the bark might indicate weakness, and a weak tree is more likely to split, crack, and then fall. Even if surrounding wood looks healthy and strong, an arborist should inspect cankers and other bark damage as needed, to note if the tree is at risk of falling and if it can be salvaged.

4. Dead or Falling Branches Are a Precursor to a Falling Tree!

A dead or dying tree will often drop its own branches to make it smaller, so there is less wood to feed. Dropping dying branches also allows more sunlight and fresh air to circulate around the trunk, which helps a tree to thrive and grow.

In some cases, dropping a branch might be all a tree needs to restore its health and get strong once again. However, falling branches are a danger themselves and can also indicate disease, root rot, infestation, and other serious health issues for your tree. If you notice your tree dropping anything more than small twigs, call an arborist for a full-scale inspection!

old dying tree

5. Tight Branch Growth or Clusters Indicate Poor Tree Health

Tree branches growing in a V shape is a bad sign and indicator of poor tree health! The base of that V puts added weight on the tree trunk and indicates the risk of splitting and then falling. Branches also need some space for proper sunlight and fresh air, to ensure a tree’s long-term health.

Optimal branch growth resembles a U rather than a V, with some space at the bottom of the growth. If you notice tight branch growth or clusters on your property’s tree, don’t wait until a branch splits and falls before calling an arborist for a full tree inspection.

6. Sudden Leaning Is a Sure Sign of TIMBERRRRR!

Some trees are naturally tilted simply due to their growth; they might grow away from other trees or naturally lean towards sunlight. Even if you were to remove other trees around your leaning tree, it might still grow on a slant, and this doesn’t necessarily mean it’s at risk of falling.

However, sudden leaning often indicates that your tree is at risk of falling! High winds and heavy rains or floods that result in overly moist soil might uproot a tree. If the tree is leaning so that its roots are showing, or if the lean is greater than a 15-degree angle, the tree typically needs replanting or removal right away.

7. Leaf Loss Might Indicate Damage if Not Examined by Professional Arborists

While leaf loss during autumn is typically normal for most trees, leaf loss that starts at the outside and works to the inside of a branch cluster can indicate damage to the tree’s roots. The “root zone” of a tree feeds and nourishes the tree; when that zone is damaged or compromised, outer leaves aren’t fed and then begin to die away.

As a tree’s root zone keeps it healthy, a damaged root zone might indicate the risk of a tree falling. If you notice any odd patterns to your tree’s leaves, sudden leaf loss, or other such signs of potential damage, call an arborist and have the tree’s roots inspected as needed.

8. Root Rot Puts a Tree at Risk of Falling

Healthy roots are vital for tree health, as said. Root rot, often caused by overly moist soil, weakens a tree and puts it at risk of falling. Since roots are underground, how to you know when your tree suffers from root rot and what can you do to fix this problem?

Symptoms of root rot include leaf thinning or wilting and dead branches. You might also notice mushrooms or other fungi growing along the base of the tree. Overly moist soil on your property might also indicate the risk of root rot and a tree about to fall!

Some root rot cases can be addressed and fixed; better grading or sloping allows excess moisture to drain away from the tree and property, keeping it dry and protected. Anti-fungal treatments also help dry out roots and prevent long-term damage, reducing the risk of the tree falling.

roots of old tree

9. Damage Caused by Infestation Can Risk a Tree Falling

Some animals and insects burrow inside of trees without causing damage, simply making their way into crevices and openings and creating nests and storing food for wintertime! Other pests, however, might eat away at tree trunks or chew through them, weakening the tree and increasing the risk of it falling.

Signs of insect infestation on a tree include yellowing of foliate, white spots on leaves, cottony white masses on the tree or leaves, and leaf thinning. You might even notice insects making their way around a tree trunk or in and out of holes in branches and elsewhere! Early treatment might save your tree, depending on the extent of damage caused, so call an arborist as soon as you notice any signs of potential tree infestation.

Now that you’ve reviewed 9 very common yet cautionary signs that your tree may fall, check out some questions many homeowners have about trees on their property and what to do if you think one might be damaged or diseased, or at risk of toppling!

Why Do Trees Fall Down?

One reason for a tree to fall include damaged roots, such as from construction. Digging up soil or cutting through those roots, such as when excavating for a new in-ground pool or plumbing pipes, cuts off a tree’s nutrients. Shallow roots also fail to provide a tree sufficient water and nutrition; trees planted too close to a structure, for example, might not have room for their roots to spread so that the tree then withers away and eventually falls.

Storms are also a major risk to trees and especially in areas where soil is already overly moist and soft, and not able to keep roots firmly in place. During major storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes, even the healthiest and strongest tree is at risk of falling!

Which Trees Are Most Likely to Fall?

White spruce, cedar, and white pine are most likely to fall in strong storms and high winds. These evergreen trees are all somewhat thin, which makes them favorite choices for Christmas trees but also means they don’t have much wind resistance!

Taller trees with large upper canopies are also more prone to falling in high winds, as those dense upper branches act as a type of lever that pulls up on tree roots. Trees in moist soil are also more likely to uproot during a storm, while overly dry trees might split and crack, allowing one side to fall suddenly.

healthy trees

Do Trees Fall the Way They Lean?

While a suddenly leaning tree is at greater risk of falling than other trees, this doesn’t always mean that a tree will fall the way it leans, or in the direction of a windstorm. A tree’s weight, its weakest point, soil conditions, and other factors affect how a tree might fall and in which direction.

Note, too, that an overly dry or damaged tree might split along a weak point and then fall along that crack. All of these are reasons why you want to call an arborist or tree removal service at the first sign of serious damage or decay, to protect your property from a falling tree!

A Word From Our Tree Service Company

This information is proudly presented by Southbury Tree Care and Removal. If you still have questions about how to tell if your tree is going to fall, or need any tree care and removal services in the Southbury area, call us today! We offer FREE quotes and guaranteed customer satisfaction for all the tree trimming and tree removal services you need to have done.

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