August 6

11 Symptoms of a Sick Tree

Are your trees showing signs of sickness?

Owners who plant trees often think they can plant the tree, water it until it gets established, and then call it a job well done — but that’s not the case.

When you don’t pay attention to your trees and check on them routinely, they could become sick and die on you before you have a chance to save them.

Don’t let this happen to you. Keep reading for 11 symptoms of sick trees so you can spot the warning signs before it’s too late.

Symptoms of a Sick Tree

Symptom #1: Fluid Seepage

Photo by J. Walla

If you notice a foamy fluid coming from your tree, it may be alcoholic white flux. In extreme cases, excess fluid will pool at the base of the tree. White flux will commonly set into trees stressed by drought and heat.

This fluid often has a fermentative odor and leaves dark streaks down a tree’s bark. Most trees with alcoholic white flux begin to produce fluid in spring and summer.

Symptom #2: Strange Growths or Fungus

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Fomes fomentarius is a fungus often found in Hickory, Cherry, Maple, and Birch trees. This fungus has a hard, hoof-shaped structure that is gray in color. 

The fungus has millions of tiny white pores on the bottom side of the structure. Once it attaches to a tree, it will continue to grow until removed.

Large, strange fungus-like growths on the trunk or branch of a tree indicate that your tree is experiencing internal rot, and the underlying section of the tree may be dead or dying.

If you’ve seen any signs of this on a tree you own, you should call for immediate service. With the right care, some trees can be saved. For those that cannot, our safe tree removal services help safeguard your home and property.

Symptom #3: The Bark is Peeling

Photo by Siaron James

Another sign that your tree has a disease is peeling bark. The bark on your tree is essential, as it protects the core of the trunk and keeps the tree healthy. 

If the bark starts to peel excessively, the tree may not maintain the necessary nutrients and could die. 

It is important to note that it is normal for many trees to experience small amounts of peeling bark. 

However, if you notice that more substantial pieces of bark are falling from your tree and exposing the internal wood fibers, contact us and we would be happy to help you determine the risk factor and next steps.

Symptom #4: Flowers or Shoots That Are Black

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Fire blight can affect pear trees, apple trees, and some other members of the family Rosaceae. The shoots or flowers on the tree turn black and shrivel into the shape of a shepherd's crook when a tree has fire blight. 

These symptoms typically appear only a few weeks after a tree has been infected. This is a fast-moving blight that has been known to wipe out an orchard in a single season.

Symptom #5: Brown Fungus at the Tree Base

Photo Source:

Inonotus dryadeus is an inedible fungus that causes white butt rot and root rot in oak trees. 

This fungus forms near the soil. It has a lumpy, irregular cap with a dull yellow surface that exudes droplets of amber liquid when fresh and young. It has a beige pore surface that ages brown, Over time, the fungus hardens and turns black.

Infected trees could fall soon after showing obvious symptoms, so you should have the tree removed if you see signs of this fungus.

Symptom #6: The Leaves Are Yellow or Brown

Photo by Alan Kanaskie

Yellow and brown leaves, along with slowed tree growth are signs your tree has armillaria root rot. You may also notice excessive wilting and major branches dying in trees with this disease. 

Fungus in the soil attacks and rots the roots of plants and trees, causing them to fail.

Trees with armillaria root rot may take a few seasons to die. However, this process will accelerate if the tree doesn’t receive enough nutrients or has attracted excessive amounts of insects.

Symptom #7: It Has Powdery Mildew

Photo Source: Wikipedia

Another common sign of disease is a white, powdery substance on the leaves of trees. This is powdery mildew, and it will usually develop later in the season when the weather has reached high humidity levels. 

Along with white mildew, you will likely see a distortion of leaves and stunted tree growth.

In the early stages, powdery mildew starts in small, white spots. These spots will expand and eventually cover the leaf’s surface.

If you see this happening, call a professional arborist immediately. Diseased trees should be treated quickly, or the tree may die. If you happen to use the wrong treatment, you could accidentally kill the tree. 

Trees are much bigger and more challenging to treat, so always leave disease treatment to professional arborists.

Symptom #8: It Has Dead Branches

Photo by: T.J. Hawkeswood

The biggest giveaway of a sick tree is bare branches during the seasons in which they should be covered in leaves. 

Keep in mind leaves that died with a branch will continue to cling to the branch well into the winter instead of dropping to the ground as they would on a healthy deciduous tree.

Symptom #9: Insect Infestation

Some common signs of infestation in trees include the following: 

  • webbing nests
  •  chewed leaves
  •  fallen healthy leaves
  •  defoliated branches
  •  larvae actively consuming foliage
  •  mottled foliage
  •  hidden infestations under leaves
  •  scale insects along twigs or branches
  •  sawdust on branches
  •  trunks indicating wood boring insects
  • holes in tree parts.

Symptom #10: Damaged or Exposed Roots

Photo by Jodi Lyczak

You will undoubtedly have a hard time determining if a tree’s roots are damaged since they are hidden underground. 

Because they are underground, roots are less vulnerable than other parts of the tree in that they can’t be buffeted by winds or gnawed on by fauna.  

However, if the roots are exposed, they are vulnerable to damage from lawn equipment, such as your lawn mower or weed eater. Also, if you've recently done any construction projects near your tree, there’s a good chance that the roots were affected during the operation. Soil compaction and excavation that causes root damage is a common reason for trees to die. You need to ensure this hasn’t happened.

Another thing to watch for are small branches sprouting from the base trunk of the tree. Sucker limbs are the tree’s attempt to grow more branches, usually in response to injury. If the roots are damaged, sucker limbs will grow from the base of the trunk. If sucker limbs grow higher on the trunk, they’re usually at the site of a pruning wound, a crack, or some other damage.

Symptom #11: Damage to the Trunk or Bark

Photo Source:

Usually, as trees age, they replace the outer layer of their bark with a new layer, but if the tree’s health is declining, it won’t be able to regenerate the stripped layer.

If you have any trees showing signs of decay and instability, they should be removed as early as possible. Stories of entire trees falling into a neighbor’s yard aren’t uncommon, so that’s something you need to keep in mind.

Get Help For Your Sick Trees

Are you worried that one of your trees is sick and you’re not sure what to do? That depends on how long your tree has been sick and what the problem is. If the problem can't be cured or at least managed, your tree may need to be removed.

Sick trees that are left unattended for too long can damage your home or injure your loved ones should they fall on your house.

If you’re worried that this might happen to you, you need to reach out to an expert who can help you determine if your tree can be saved — or if it needs to go.

If you live in the Greater Chattanooga area, contact us to have our expert diagnose your sick tree and give you a quote for treatment or removal, depending on your unique situation.

Call now at (423) 933-6863 or send us an email.

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