Trees in your landscape can provide year-round interest and a welcome habitat for birds and wildlife, as well as flowers in the spring time and fruit in the summer. However, many species of deciduous trees can appear to be dead during the winter months, leading to accidental removal of an actually healthy tree.

How to Determine if Your Tree Dead or Alive

if you are unsure whether or not one of your winter, or deciduous, trees is dead or alive you can utilize one of the following tricks:

Check for buds

Even during the depths of winter, your tree should have tiny green leaf buds on it. Have a good look over your tree for signs of budding life. If you can find no buds at all or if the buds appear shriveled and dry, it’s likely that the tree is dead or in serious trouble. Similarly, trees that are still carrying leaves well past the fall drop can also be in poor health.

Examine the tree trunk

As trees grow, they shed their bark in the same way they do with their leaves. The bark replaces itself as it regrows, so you should be able to see healthy new bark appearing to fill the spaces left where dead bark has come away.

If one of your trees has lost layers of its bark but shows no signs of replacing them, it could be dying. Large fissures and cracks in the tree trunk are also indicative of a tree that is diseased or dying.

Serious signs of trouble like these should be highlighted to your local tree care service, as the tree may be in danger of falling and may need urgent treatment.

Scratch test the tree’s branches

A very quick and easy test for life in your trees is the scratch test. Take a small knife and very lightly scratch a tiny spot on one of the tree’s outermost twigs. The material underneath the bark should be green and moist. If the wood is brown, dry and brittle, the tree could be diseased or dying.

You can also try gently bending a few of the tree’s smaller twigs. If they bend easily without snapping, the tree is alive. Twigs that snap, revealing brown dry wood beneath, are clearly dead.

In Conclusion

If you suspect that one of your winter trees is dead or dying, rather than dormant, contact the Certified Arborist at Tree Medics for a free tree health care evaluation .