As a homeowner living in an area that is subject to high winds and storms, it's important that you keep a watchful eye on the trees in your backyard. At any time, branches or an entire tree can die and pose a dangerous threat to your home and your family's safety. But you don't want to cut down a living tree in your yard. Follow these steps to determine if any of the trees in your backyard are dead or have dead branches, so you can remove them before they do damage to your property:
1. Examine the leaves.
Whether you're trying to determine if a single branch is dead or the entire tree, the first thing you should look at is the leaves:
If the leaves are discolored or have dark spots, it's a sign that the tree is infected with bugs or a disease. If it is a newly transplanted tree, it can be transplant shock.
If most or all the leaves have been yellow for most of the spring and summer, then it's a sign of root system damage or a high soil pH.
If there are no leaves on the tree, or the leaves have been brown all spring and summer, then there's a good chance the branch or the entire tree is dead.
2. Inspect the branches.
Look closely at the branches. If you can see new ones growing from existing ones, then there is still life in the tree. There is a chance this tree can be treated and will survive. If you see a sticky or wet liquid on the branches, that means the tree is infected with bacteria. If you see small holes or chew marks on the branches, it is a sign of insect infestation. You can decide to treat the tree accordingly, or take it down. Or, you can prune off the dry branches and wait another year to see if new growth appears before you cut the entire tree down.
3. Shake a branch
While you're inspecting the branch, give it a few shakes. Branches that are under a half of an inch in diameter should bend without breaking. If the branch is dead, it will snap off. Dead branches also feel drier and lighter than a live branch. It may even feel hollow.
4. Break a branch off and look inside.
Still holding the branch, break it off. If the branch is large, just break off a small piece at the end. Now look at the middle of the branch. If it's green or white inside, it's probably alive. If it's also moist, then it's alive. If the branch is brittle, brown, dry, and cracked, then it's dead.
5. Remove a section of bark and look at the cambium
If the tree is very tall and you can't reach a branch, or you want to avoid doing additional damage to the tree by breaking a branch off, you can check the cambium. The cambium is the thin layer between the wood and the bark. To see the cambium you need to remove a small section of bark with your fingernail or a knife, depending on the bark's thickness. If the cambium is green, then the tree is alive. If it's brown, then it's dead.
If you're still not sure if a particular tree or branch is dead, call your local tree removal company or any other company that does Complete Landscaping in your area. This expert can come to your home and inspect the tree in question. Based on the findings, he or she will provide tree care, or coordinate the removal of the tree if necessary.