Driving across the state, you’re likely to discover that Oregon is home to a wide variety of plant life and an extensive array of trees. You’ll find 30 native coniferous species and 37 native species of broadleaf trees.

Here in Portland, you’ll find everything from Bigleaf Maple to Bitter Cherry; Douglas Fir to the Oregon White Ash. And of course, those are just the beginning.

 

Because of our history and our surrounding landscape, we take trees very seriously here in the Pacific Northwest. A tree adds a lot to the value of our property, and keeping them in top shape is an important part of home maintenance. Yes, that means tree trimming. But it also means a whole lot more.

Like other living foliage, trees die.

 

Depending on the age and condition of the tree, with a little maintenance you can stop the disease before it happens, bringing a tree back into health, and therefore restoring it and giving it new life.

 

How can you tell if a tree is dying?

 

In most cases, with just a little bit of investigative work, you can quickly tell a healthy tree from a not-so-healthy one. And once you determine you have a problem, its easy to call in expertise and attempt to fix the problem before it spreads and causes irreparable damage.

 

Activity

 

Start by evaluating activity that has taken place in your surrounding area this year. Have you taken on a home remodeling project that impacted the landscaping? Have your neighbors taken on a large project that may affect your landscape? Have you added outside improvements that could impact the underground, such as digging trenches or installing sprinkler systems? Or maybe larger neighborhood projects have occurred, such as installing a new water or sewage pipe in your front yard?

 

 

All of this can have a profound impact on the health of a tree.

 

 

Changes may open your tree up to a new environment, more sunlight, more exposure to the wind. It may have damaged the root system. Or it may have altered the surrounding grading, allowing the tree to get more or less water than before. It may have even opened it up to new contaminants that weren’t introduced to the proximate before.

 

Bare Branches

 

One of the surest signs of damage is a bare branch during the time of year when it should be covered in leaves.  Watch carefully as your tree emerges from the winter. Are all branches coming back to life? Also, keep in mind that dead leaves will cling to a deciduous tree all winter long instead of dropping to the ground as they would on a health deciduous tree.

 

 

Be particularly mindful to large sections of a tree where branches don’t emerge after the winter months. Dead branches in one are or on one side of the tree can indicate a serious infection, trunk damage or root damage to that side of the tree.

 

Trunk Damage

 

As a tree ages, it goes through a lot of changes. Old bark will eventually fall off and be replaced by new bark underneath. It will develop its own hidden characteristics that make each tree unique and of its own. Yet throughout this process, the trunk will begin changing if it’s not in top health.

 

 

Instead of replacing old bark with new, the new might not reappear, instead leaving the smooth wood underneath instead. Vertical cracks may begin to appear. Seams may run around the tree, creating separations in the tree.

 

Root Damage

 

Because a tree’s root system is underground and can run deep or shoot off to the sides in many directions, it’s difficult to determine if your tree’s roots are damaged. The more shallow a root system is, the more careful you should be with excavation and new construction projects around your home. Shallow roots systems can also leave your tree vulnerable to extreme elements and poor soil compaction, all things that increase vitality as the tree grows and ages.

 

 

Have you noticed a sudden lean in one direction? Are small branches sprouting along the base of one side of the tree? These branches, also known as epicomic shoots, and can indicate a tree is under severe stress and is reaching out for help.

 

Fungus

 

If you’ve noticed a large shelf or bracket fungus creeping along the trunk or branch of a tree, it might indicate that your tree is experiencing internal rot and anything beyond the fungus is dying or dead.

Dying trees might not seem like a problem today, but they can quickly cause a variety of concerns over time.

 

Yes, dead trees look unattractive when they are mixed in with your landscaping. But they can also be destructive over time.

 
  • Diseased trees can spread disease or unwanted pests to other trees and landscaping throughout your yard.

  • Dead branches can fall without warning and cause serious injuries and property damage depending on how and where it falls.

  • Dead trees attract insects and other unwanted pests in your yard.

  • Dying trees can change quickly. They can shift unexpectedly, falling and causing damage to a variety of things on your yard, including structures, power lines, cars, or people.