9 Subtle Signs of Tree Disease You Might Miss

signs of tree disease

Did you know a tree with an undiagnosed disease may become so sick that it can topple over? It’s true: It may even spread its disease to the surrounding trees in your backyard? This article investigates the signs of a sick tree, sick tree treatment and what you can do if you have an unhealthy tree in your backyard.

9 Signs Of A Sick Tree

Sign of Tree Disease #1: Tree Bark Changes

One of the most easy-to-identify signs of tree disease is tree bark changes. If you notice tree bark fungus growing on your tree with white or black spots on the tree bark, these are clear signs that your tree should be examined by a professional. Cracking, peeling, crumbling, brittle or spongy bark are also signs of an unhealthy tree. 

Sign of Tree Disease #2: Cracks In The Tree Trunk

Sometimes, the cracks that form in a tree’s trunk will be perfectly harmless. However, if the cracks or splits are significant and go deeper than the bark, it’s best to seek professional advice from an arborist. In these cases, it may be a sign of a sick, structurally compromised or potentially dangerous tree. 

Sign of Tree Disease #3: Reduced Foliage

Healthy trees enjoy full leaf coverage in summer and spring. Unless it’s the middle of winter, your tree should have some greenery on its branches. If your tree is no longer producing leaves at all, its leaves have browned out, or the leaves have thinned out in a small section of the tree canopy, this may be a sign of tree disease. A tree without leaves in the spring or summer can be a sign that the tree has died. 

When looking at a deciduous tree’s leaves, check carefully to see if the dead leaves clinging to it while the others are bare. The branches with leaves are diseased or dying. Trees should naturally shed their leaves, but if their leaves are clinging or frozen to the branch, your tree might have died. 

Sign of Tree Disease #4: Discoloured Leaves

If you start to see unexplained changes, spots or mottling of the leaves, it could be a sign of several problems. Discoloured leaves can indicate that three has a disease, that the tree isn’t receiving enough water, sunlight or nutrients such as nitrogen, meaning it doesn’t have enough energy for photosynthesis and the production of leaves. On evergreen trees, branches with leaves that are yellow, red or brown are sick or dying and need to be inspected by an arborist. 

Sign of Tree Disease #5: Fungal Disease

One of the most damaging tree diseases is a fungal disease. Trees can become infected by fungi with airborne spores or fungi may be transferred from another infected plant or tree. If the fungi spread throughout the tree and have attacked the root system, it may become sick. Signs of a fungal attack include a white substance that forms when the bark is chipped off, presence of mushroom or conk-shaped fruiting bodies. 

Sign of Tree Disease #6: Pests

Many different pests can invade a tree and cause tree disease. In Australia, the most common tree pests include:

  • Termites – Look for wood shavings, termite wings, mud tubes on the tree bark, an unstable or hollow trunk, or termite nests in the soil around the tree base
  • Leaf beetles – Keep a lookout for ‘shothole’ or ‘scattergun’ damage to leaves
  • Wood wasps – Search for meandering galleries under the bark packed with fine boring dust and round, clean-cut holes that penetrate the wood
  • Stem borers – Presence of sawdust, calluses and cracked bark, lifted bark, exit holes, swelling, leaking sap, ring-barking and withered branch tips

Sign of Tree Disease #7: Deadwood

Deadwood can be perfectly normal for a tree canopy. However, deadwood and dead growth tips can also be a sign that the tree is under stress and potentially sick. We recommend seeking professional advice to ensure it’s not a sign of a bigger health issue. 

Sign of Tree Disease #8: Changes To The Soil Around The Tree

Often, the soil surrounding the tree can provide clues about the health of your tree. If the soil is bone dry or cracked, the tree may be thirsty for water. If the soil is waterlogged and compressed, the earth may not be strong enough to hold the tree in position. The tree may even start to lean slightly. Soil disturbance, such as excavation, can greatly damage the roots and even destabilise the tree. Raising the soil around the tree trunk and roots can suffocate the root system as tree roots need oxygenated soil to grow. We recommend seeking professional advice before undertaking these works. 

Sign of Tree Disease #9: Root Rot

Another common tree disease is root rot. Damage to the roots is critical, as roots are important to help the tree absorb water and nutrients so it can grow and flourish. This rotting is likely caused by a fungal infection that has entered into the roots. Root rot can be identified by wilted or yellowish leaves in summer. To prevent the spread, it’s important to hire a professional to skillfully prune the tree and treat the soil to control the fungus infection. 

My Tree Is Dying, What Should I Do?

All of these symptoms are warning signs that your tree’s health is threatened. If you have a sick, diseased or unhealthy tree, it may not be too late to save it. The faster you identify these symptoms, the faster your tree can be treated and recover.

If your tree becomes sick, the best thing to do is to consult your local arborist. Arborists are certified experts that specialise in tree growth. An arborist will be able to identify at-risk trees, investigate the extent of the damage, properly spray your tree with chemicals, alert you to any spreading tree diseases, treat the disease, brace your trees for support, or even remove an extremely sick tree. 

If there is any way to save your tree, an arborist will know and be able to help. Contact the professional arborists at Arbor Operations today on 1800 652 862 for expert advice on sick tree treatment, including its care or removal.

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