When you get sick, it can be hard to diagnose the problem. Though you have a runny nose and sore throat, that can be a number of illnesses. Trees get a variety of infections or are affected by their environment just like us— except they often have very different symptoms than sneezing or fevering!

In some cases, it can be easy to see what’s wrong: if your tree is seeping fluid or is growing some bizarre fungus on it, you know something’s wrong. However, oftentimes a tree has more subtle ways of showing it’s weakened.

Here are a few signs you might have a dying or sick tree on your hands:

Canopy Thinning

Your tree’s canopy, or its collection of leaves and branches, is what helps it absorb energy. Each leaf takes sunlight and converts it to food through photosynthesis, but without enough green chlorophyll to absorb the rays, your tree goes hungry. A tree’s canopy matters so dramatically, in fact, that trees with more than 30% canopy loss are usually beyond saving.

Canopy thinning can occur as the result of pest invasion, like by the infamous Emerald Ash Borer on Ash trees, Winter Moth on many hardwoods and ornamental trees and Gypsy Moth on pretty much any type of tree including pines, or because of soil compaction or root damage. Your tree may react to this stressful loss of foliage by sending energy reserves out to the wrong places in panic, resulting in unusual growth towards the base of the tree— not out of the end of a branch like it would in good health. If caught early enough, the tree can be often be saved, however, oftentimes the loss of canopy is gradual, over the course of three to five years— and harder to recognize until critical.

What you can do: Regularly check your tree’s canopy growth. At first sight of damage, inspect the area. Sometimes, proper aeration around the base of the tree can release some compaction, or fertilization can restore its health. Other times, you have an infection on your hands and need the help of an experienced professional.

Leaf Discoloration, Damage or Wilting

Leaf issues are perhaps one of the clearest signs that your tree is under stress. While not all forms are serious— for example, brown-tipped leaves often indicate improper watering and can be easily adjusted— other forms of damage can reveal bigger long-term problems.

While some are simple to diagnose, like holes in leaves— which often indicate an insect problem— odd spotting, leaf withering or deformity occurs for different reasons on various types of trees. This makes it hard to name a broad cause and takes some investigation.

What you can do: Generally, be on the lookout for anything other than healthy and vibrant leaves, flowering or foliage. Research your tree’s individual problem by searching the species and the symptoms online. This should help you narrow down a few possible causes and to treat yourself. Of course, it’s always best to consult a tree care professional before making any dramatic changes.

Premature Color Change & Shedding

While we all love Massachusetts’ beautiful fall foliage, however, a tree that changes color or drops its leaves too soon can be a warning sign. When you get a cold, you have two options: suffer through or give yourself some R&R. If the sickness is overwhelming, you might call off of work, throw on pajamas and watch Netflix.

When your tree is sick, it does something similar. A tree might decide to “cut its losses” early, or stop directing all its energy to new growth when it feels it can’t recover before the season transition. Instead of depleting its energy and being vulnerable all winter, your tree might shed its leaves and enter an early dormancy, “sleeping off” the sickness until it can fight it off in spring.

What you can do: If your tree’s leaves are turning yellow, orange or red before all your neighbors’ trees, and you start to notice fast leaf shedding, consult a professional. They may be able to diagnose the problem and inject your tree with deep root fertilization or pesticides, acting like vitamins or medicine to build resistance, fight infection and recover over the winter.

Cracks in Trunk or Major Limbs

Cracks in your tree may have been caused by storm or winter damage, where wicked winds or heavy snow caused breakage. Or, other trees— like Cherry or Maple trees— can experience bark splitting from sun scalding or “frost cracks” over the winter.

While cracks may seem harmless, it’s akin to you getting a cut: a wound that’s susceptible to infection. Disease or insects can enter through this opening, causing significant problems.

What you can do: Early winter is the perfect window for dormant pruning. This is the best time to cut your tree because the cold means insects are sparse, diseases are at bay and your tree won’t waste resources trying to “heal” until spring— promising a better bloom. Discover the best way to prune here.

Protect Your Tree, Before It’s Too Late

Many trees have long lifespans, ranging from 15-20 years for smaller ornamentals— to up to 100 years for the mighty Maple. If you want to see your investment thrive for many years, you have to take care of it.

Many Massachusetts trees are weakened by invasive insects, but few realize that preventative measures can be taken to protect your towering beauties, instead of trying to nurse a dying tree back to health. Just like you’d spray your yard with insecticide, you too can inject your tree, and safely ward off pests.

In addition, deep root fertilizers can be injected, giving your tree the minerals it needs to grow tall and proud.

Learn more about how our Arborjet tree injections work and safeguard your prized investments with the help of our team at Green Sphere.

Give us a call at (855)-391-1343 to speak with a professional, today.