Unless you are particularly well-versed in the biology of trees, the typical property owner may not be familiar with the warning signs of a sick tree. Trees are our business here at Swazy & Alexander, and we’re here to help you identify some of the markers that are common when trees become diseased and unhealthy. If you notice any of these characteristics in the trees on your property, contact us right away to assess the situation. Trees that are left untreated or necessarily removed could die and fall, causing damage to your property and potentially costing you much more money than addressing the issue would have in the first place.

Be aware of these major warning signs of sick trees:

Abnormal Seeping Liquid

It’s normal for trees to leak sap here and there, but if you should begin to notice an abnormal presence of seeping fluid, it could be a sign of a deeper problem. A tree disease called “Alcoholic Slime Flux” often results in trees excreting excess fluid, even pooling around the base of a tree. This seeping fluid often has a foul odor and leaves a blackish trail on the tree’s bark. If your tree is suffering from this disease, you’ll most likely encounter this excess seeping fluid in the spring and summer months.

Unusual Gray Growths

A fungus called fomes fomentarius often afflicts hickory, cherry, birch, and maple trees. If you notice hard gray growths on your trees, especially these species of trees, this fungus is the likely culprit. The bottom of this fungus contains numerous tiny, white spores, and once it has attached to your tree, it will continue to grow until it is entirely removed.

Peeling Bark

The bark of your trees functions much in the same way as our own skin — it is there to protect the vital inner constructs of the organism and keep it healthy. If the bark of your trees is beginning to peel, the tree’s ability to retain the nutrients it needs to survive diminishes. Minor peeling here and there is normal for most trees, but if you notice widespread peeling bark, it may be time to bring in a tree specialist to diagnose the problem.

Presence of Black Flowers

As mystifying as the term “Fire Blight” sounds, it is a common disease that affects well over 100 species of plants. When trees are affected by Fire Blight, shoots and flowers on the tree will begin to turn black, giving the appearance of having been burnt. If your trees exhibit this strange behavior, they have likely already been infected with the bacteria that causes this for several weeks. Once the tree becomes symptomatic, bacteria growth begins to increase exponentially, often killing the tree.

Inonotus Dryadeus Fungus

This is another fungus that likes to prey on oak trees. Inonotus dryadeus causes rotting in the tree, and presents itself as large, light brown colored shelves at the base of the trunk, near the ground. Eventually, these clusters of fungus will harden and darken in color. Unfortunately, once this fungus has appeared, it has already taken hold of the entire tree, and soon the tree will die and potentially fall. The best course of action with this fungus is to remove the tree before it causes any damage in a potential fall.

Discolored Leaves

While trees naturally feature changing leaf colors seasonally, if you notice that leaves change to yellow or brown out of season, it could be symptomatic of a greater problem. Discolored leaves are often a sign of Armillaria Root Rot, which is a fungus in the soil that damages the root systems of trees. In addition to discolored leaves, you may notice an excess of major branches dying or wilting. Although this fungus doesn’t usually kill a tree quickly, in a few seasons, the tree will eventually have to be removed, especially if it doesn’t receive adequate nutrients. Insect damage can also expedite this process.

Powder-like Mildew

Early in the growth season, it’s normal for leaves to be covered in a fine powder of pollen. However, if you begin to notice a white, powdery mildew forming on leaves at the height of summer, accompanied by misshapen leaves and stunted limb growth, it could be signs of another fungal infection. These spots may start out small, but will eventually expand to cover entire leaves. 

Contact Swazy & Alexander Landscaping for Tree Help Today

As soon as you become aware of any of these tree disease symptoms on your property, or any other abnormal tree characteristics, we recommend contacting us as soon as possible! Even if your tree is diseased, there is always the chance that tree care professionals can take action to save a tree or limit the damage. Swazy & Alexander bring friendly professionalism to every home we visit, and we’ll be transparent with our assessment of your trees’ health. Trust us to keep your landscape looking beautiful and healthy, and when necessary, to remove any trees that pose a risk of damaging your property. Contact us today to learn more!


  • Abnormal or excess seeping liquid is a clear sign of tree disease
  • Unusual gray fungal growths, especially on hickory, maple, cherry, and birch trees, are signs of fomes fomentarius
  • Excessive peeling bark is indicative of poor tree health
  • Black flowers or shoots can be signs of Fire Blight disease
  • Clusters of shelf-like fungus at the base of a tree are signs of inonotus dryadeus, an often fatal tree fungus
  • Discolored leaves out of season are a clear sign of tree disease
  • Powdery mildew, especially in humid climates, is a symptom of tree disease