Identifying Tree Disease

by Marcus Pickett

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Wind, extreme heat and cold, and moisture are all common factors which will make your tree susceptible disease. Many of them can't be controlled which is why it's important to give your tree proper care and maintenance. Taking care of your tree, in general, will often make them resistant to common diseases. Excessive backfill, soil compaction, and hardpan or poor drainage are all contributing factors that can be reduced or eliminated with proper tree care. Still, even conscientious homeowners will occasionally find their trees under siege from various diseases.

Identifying Tree Diseases
There are countless tree diseases out there. It would be impossible to list them all, but there are steps you can take to help you narrow down the possibilities and usually identify the exact disease and any possible treatments. Some tree diseases are specific to a tree species. Making note of the symptoms of the affected tree will also limit the possibilities.

Once you know what kind of tree you have and what the symptoms are an arborist or tree nursery employee can probably tell you exactly what is wrong with the tree and what you can do about it. You probably don't want to spend money to have someone come out to your home, just to tell you your tree is dying and there's nothing to be done except to have the tree removed. A quick consultation is often free for homeowners.

Symptoms of Tree Disease
Common symptoms of tree disease include dead or hanging branches, rotten wood or cavities in the trunk or roots, major splits, fungal fruiting bodies at the base, and the presence of insects. Many of these symptoms are obvious signs that something is wrong, but insects can be kind of tricky. You should identify the insect before you start to worry. Some insects are actually good for your tree. Ladybugs eat aphids, for example. If you're not sure if something is harming your tree, it's probably best to play it safe and talk to an arborist.

Root Decay
Root decay can cause all kinds of havoc for your tree. Most people know that roots provide all sorts of functions for plants, in general. They extract water and nutrients from the ground and anchor the tree to the ground. A tree suffering from root decay is significantly more likely to be felled from a wind storm. Often, the only way to detect root decay is from broken roots (if they're visible) or the presence of fungus. The size of a fungal growth is not indicative of root damage. Even a small fungal growth can destroy an entire root system. If root decay is extensive, often little can be done for a tree, but keep in mind what caused the root decay in the first place and plant more wisely for your next tree.

Finding a Professional
Arborists are professionals trained to care for trees and shrubs by pruning, fertilizing, monitoring for insects and tree diseases, and consulting on tree-related issues. When contacting a tree service about a diseased tree, make sure they have a professional affiliation such as Certified Arborist, International Society of Arboriculture, or National Arborist Association, as well as proper state licensing.

For additional information and tree trimming and pruning tips check out

Marcus Pickett is a professional freelance writer for the home remodeling industry. He has published more than 600 articles on both regional and national topics within the home improvement industry.