Spring is in full swing, and as you are preparing your landscape for the upcoming hot summer months, it’s critical to pay special attention to your mature trees.
These trees are a valuable part of your landscape. In fact, “Streets with mature trees command higher home prices, temper the dog days of summer, and draw more people outdoors for fresh air, walks and chats with neighbors,” The Lawrence Times stated in an article about the importance of diversifying trees.
In addition, keeping your trees healthy is important because if a mature tree dies, it quickly transforms from a beautiful shade-bearing asset to a costly liability. This is especially true in Missouri, where violent and sometimes unexpected storms can quickly down dead or dying trees.
And remember, your homeowner’s insurance may not cover property damages for trees that damaged property if they were neglected or had maintenance-related issues. “Homeowners insurance usually won’t cover loss or damage caused by negligence or a maintenance-related issue. So, if the tree was rotting and ready to fall down before the storm, homeowners insurance likely would not cover the damage the tree caused to your home,” national insurance company Allstate explains on its website.
The good news is that a sick tree can be treated and, if it’s caught early enough, it can be nursed back to be as vibrant and thriving as it once was. But how do you tell if something is off?
Below are a few signs your tree needs to be looked at by a professional.
Signs Your Tree Needs a Doctor (aka Certified Arborist)
There are two types of trees: evergreen trees, which keep leaves or needles year round, and deciduous trees, which drop their leaves or needles in the fall and grow new the following spring.
Warning Signs for Evergreen Trees
Some of the more popular evergreen trees in Missouri that might dot your landscape include arborvitaes, junipers, spruce, and pine trees. If your tree exhibits any of the below warning signs, call an arborist to take a look.
- Excessive Yellowing: It is normal to notice yellowing as evergreen trees drop foliage, but since they don’t get completely bare, green should always heavily outweigh yellow. If the balance of green to yellow starts to tip in the other direction, it is a sure sign of a nutrient deficiency that could lead to the death of the tree. If a nutrient deficiency is the cause of yellowing, the right mix of fertilizer and water can help get the tree back on course.
- Significant Needle or Leaf Loss in the Tree’s Outer Canopy: Trees like junipers, broadleaf evergreens, and most conifers will have bare (or dead) branches under the canopy, but the tree could still be healthy. Evergreen trees drop needles and leaves as they grow new ones, but they should never be completely bare. If you see larger branches higher up in the canopy that don’t have needles or branches, they are likely dead. These limbs could be dangerous if they fall, and not cutting back these branches could leave an opening for insects to move in. If the canopy is completely bare, the tree is beyond recovery and will need to be removed.
- Insect Infestation: If you see insects or increased bird activity, your tree may be in trouble. If you don’t catch an infestation in time, your tree can die. Look for two types of evergreen tree damage:
- Foliar Damage: Tree pests can start out very small and are difficult to see. As they feed on the tree foliage, they grow rapidly and damage to the tree accelerates exponentially. Insect frass, or the excrement from the insects and their larvae will be apparent underneath the tree. Since these insects are on the outside of the tree, they can likely be treated with either foliar or systemic insecticide. Once the pests are gone, the tree should regrow the foliage, although some damage may be too extensive and limb removal may be necessary.
- Trunk Damage: Borers are insect larvae that feed underneath the tree bark. They can be extremely difficult to identify. Bark cracking or loss will be visible, as well as an exit hole for the pest once it has matured. Since these insects feed on the inside of the tree, the extent of the damage will be unknown. Depending on the severity, it can cause the tree to die. Before removing a tree with an insect infestation, it may be beneficial to try a systemic insecticide paired with a routine fertilizer treatment to aid a possible recovery.
Red Flags for Deciduous Trees
Homeowners with deciduous trees in their landscape may recognize some of these common Missouri trees from maple, to Pin Oak, ash, cyprus, crabapple, redbud, and dogwood. Like evergreen trees, there are several warning signs trees will show when they need to be evaluated by a professional arborist.
- Cracked and Discolored Bark: When deciduous trees are dormant and bare, issues are not as easy to recognize. Damage to the trunk, though, is a sure sign the tree has a serious problem. Look for dark discolored bark that may be loose, long deep splits, or cracks. Severely damaged trunks can be dangerous, so the plan of action will depend on the extent of the damage and the overall condition of the tree. If the damage is minor, protecting the area and fertilizing may be enough, but more significant damage may require cabling or bracing – or even removal.
- Bare Branches: Your deciduous tree should have a full, even canopy. Some trees leaf out faster than others, so this may take some time to identify. If you notice one side of the tree is not as full, this could be a sign of damage to the tree’s vascular system. This is normally caused by insects. Affected branches may never recover and could need to be removed before they become a hazard. In instances of an Emerald Ash Borer infestation on an ash tree, you will notice a decline in the upper canopy. Treating the tree for the pest early will help it recover, but it is possible that removal will be necessary.
- Winter Storm Damage: Missouri’s winter ice storms are tough on deciduous trees. Heavy loads of snow and high winds may cause damage to branches, but it may not be apparent. The branches may even leaf out, just not quite as much as the rest of the tree. It is possible to recover from minor storm damage, but there is a chance that the next spring or summer storm causes costly damage. If the tree is close to a home or utilities, it may need to be removed, but a certified arborist can help you make the right choice.
- Lightning Damage: Some lightning strikes leave recognizable damage, while other strikes may cause the tree to decline over time. Large areas of black or missing bark are a sign of a lightning strike, which could cause large branches to break off unexpectedly. A damaged tree also will have multiple areas of canopy loss. Lightning strikes cause instant death to a section of the tree. If the tree is in great health, it may be able to live with the wound; however, some ongoing care will be necessary to ward off pests and boost the tree’s health. If the tree isn’t in top-notch health, the damaged section or entire tree should be removed. Either way, immediate action should be taken.
Assessing Damaged Trees On Your Property
When you are dealing with dead or dying trees, keep in mind they are unpredictable and potentially deadly. The best and most effective way to assess damaged trees on your property is to leave it to the pros.
If you notice any early warning signs or if you’re worried about a dead or declining tree, contact an ISA-certified arborist like Craig’s Tree Service for a tree health evaluation.