dying tree

Is My Tree Dying or Just Stressed? A Quick Guide to Tell the Difference

As a homeowner, noticing changes in your trees’ appearance can be concerning. Are those yellow leaves a sign of impending doom, or is your tree simply stressed by environmental factors? Understanding the difference between a dying tree and one experiencing stress can help you take appropriate action to preserve your landscape’s health and beauty. At Front Range Arborists in Colorado Springs, we want to provide the following quick guide to help you identify the signs of a dying tree versus one under stress, along with tips on how to address each situation.


Signs of a Dying Tree

One of the most obvious signs of a dying tree is bare branches or a significant loss of foliage. If large sections of your tree appear sparse or devoid of leaves, it could indicate that the tree is in decline. Some of the other possible signs a tree is dying include:


  • Deadwood: Deadwood, or branches that are brittle and devoid of foliage, is another telltale sign of a dying tree. As a tree deteriorates, it may shed its outer layers of bark and exhibit deadwood throughout the canopy.
  • Fungal Growth: Fungi such as mushrooms growing around the base of the tree or on its trunk can indicate internal decay and a compromised root system, both of which are signs of a dying tree.
  • Cracks and Splits: Cracks or splits in the tree’s trunk or branches can indicate structural weakness and potential failure. These structural defects may be a result of disease, pests, or environmental stressors.
  • Decay and Rot: Soft, spongy areas on the trunk or branches, along with cavities or holes, are signs of internal decay and rot. If left untreated, decay can spread rapidly and lead to the tree’s demise.


Signs of a Stressed Tree

While yellowing leaves can indicate a dying tree, they can also be a sign of stress caused by factors such as drought, nutrient deficiencies, or improper watering that causes stress to the tree. Other signs of tree stress include:


  • Wilting or Drooping Foliage: Trees under stress may exhibit wilting or drooping foliage, especially during periods of extreme heat or drought. This is the tree’s way of conserving water and energy in response to unfavorable conditions.
  • Premature Leaf Drop: If your tree is dropping leaves prematurely, it may be a sign of stress. This can occur due to factors such as overwatering, underwatering, nutrient imbalances, or root damage.
  • Sparse Growth: A stressed tree may exhibit sparse or stunted growth, with fewer leaves and smaller canopy size than usual. This can be a result of environmental factors, poor soil conditions, or competition from nearby plants.
  • Pest Infestations: Pests such as aphids, mites, or borers can weaken a tree and make it more susceptible to stress and disease. If you notice signs of pest infestation, such as holes in the leaves, sticky residue, or sawdust-like material around the trunk, your tree may be under stress.


What to Do Next

If you suspect that your tree is dying or under stress, it’s essential to take action promptly to address the underlying issues and prevent further decline. Here are some steps you can take:


  • Consult with an Arborist: An arborist can assess the health of your tree and recommend appropriate treatments or interventions to address any underlying issues.
  • Address Environmental Stressors: Identify and address any environmental stressors affecting your tree, such as improper watering, soil compaction, or nutrient deficiencies.
  • Implement Proper Tree Care Practices: Ensure that your tree receives adequate water, sunlight, and nutrients to promote healthy growth and resilience to stress.
  • Monitor Your Tree’s Health: Monitor your tree’s condition and look for any changes or new symptoms that may arise. Early detection and intervention can help prevent further damage and improve your tree’s chances of survival.


While it can be alarming to see changes in your tree’s appearance, understanding the difference between a dying tree and one under stress can help you take appropriate action to preserve its health and vitality. If you’re unsure about the health of your tree or need assistance with tree care, don’t hesitate to reach out to Front Range Arborists in Colorado Springs. Our team of arborists has the expertise and experience to assess your tree’s health and provide tailored solutions to meet your needs. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and keep your trees thriving for years to come.