Nature is a wonderful thing, however with age, similarly to any other living organisms, cracks start to show and trees, in particular, simply cannot live forever. Trees can live anywhere from 50 to 5,000 years depending on the species; however, when they do reach the end of their life, there are many telltale signs you need to call a professional tree surgeon to assess the issue.

When Is It Time To Enlist The Help Of A Professional Tree Surgeon?

Location, soil nutrients and sunlight are just some of the many factors that contribute towards the longevity of a tree and its overall health. If left undisturbed, trees will live a long and happy life, however many unavoidable disturbances, such as construction, weather conditions and insects, can create a dramatic negative impact. In some cases, damage can be resolved with a little extra care and attention, but unfortunately, many situations cannot be fixed which means it is likely the tree will need to be removed.

Whether you have a stand-alone tree in your garden or many as part of your commercial landscaping, ensure that you are aware and keep a lookout for these common signs you need to enlist the help of a tree surgeon.

Bare Branches

Are the branches of your tree bare in months where they should be flourishing with crisp green leaves and blossoming flowers? Are branches lacking their upper layer of bark? Both of these issues are prominent signs that you need professional guidance.

Once branches become bare and lack growth, they will eventually fall off. If too many branches fall, unfortunately, the tree will come to the end of its life. The moment you notice a dramatic decrease in growth, give your local tree surgeon a call, they are likely to be able to, over time, solve the problem.

bare tree branches


A tree should stand tall in a vertical position, however, can sometimes tilt slightly in another direction due to heavy impact such as high winds. A slight lean is common, but this should never exceed more than 15 degrees in one direction. If you notice that your tree or a tree on your premises is leaning 15 degrees or more away from its original position, you may be experiencing internal rotting. Alternatively, strong, consistent winds may cause caused root damage.

A leaning tree must be assessed immediately, particularly if it is located in a commercial space filled with public carparks and pedestrian walkways. Once a tree is internally damaged, it will take minimal force for it to fall, potentially injuring pedestrians, damaging cars or cascade into your building’s roof resulting in significant, expensive repair fees.

Deep Cracks

Trees are filled with delicate patterns in the bark revealing several small nooks and crannies, which is entirely normal and healthy. However, if, over time, you notice more and more deeper cracks appearing that were not necessarily present previously, it’s time to take a closer look.

Deep cracks, luckily, does not indicate that your tree is reaching the end of its life, it is, instead, likely to be lacking essential nutrients. With some expert help from a tree surgeon, your tree can be brought back to life over the course of a few months.

cracked tree bark

Crossed Branches

As a tree becomes old and reaches its full growth potential, any further growth becomes limited due to space, mainly if left unpruned surrounded by other plants. When space is limited, braches will start to grow over each other rather than freely, which will eventually damage the bark. Branches will begin to friction against each other resulting in rot which will decay the whole branch. Again, similarly to problems caused by deep cracks, the tree will not need to be removed. Instead, we suggest that you create a contract with your local tree surgeon to visit every few weeks to prune excess branches.

Discoloured Twigs

There is a simple test you can carry out independantly to determine whether your tree has reached the end of its life and needs to be removed.

Grab a small stick from your tree and snap it in half, if the twig takes a little tension to break in half and is green inside, great, you have a healthy tree brimming with life. If the inside has an off-green with a dark tone appearance, then your tree is still alive and well; however you may want to keep a careful eye out and treat it with some extra care to avoid future issues. Unfortunately, if the twig breaks with little force and the inside is entirely brown, then you are faced with a dead twig from a dead branch. Try different areas of the tree to uncover whether all areas are filled with a brown interior; if this is the case, then it is highly recommended to enlist the help of a tree surgeon. This quick test reveals whether the tree is made from dead wood, in this instance, it is more than likely that the tree will need to be professionally removed.

broken twig

Damaged Roots

There are two different indications that the roots of your tree are damaged, the first is slimy roots. Roots may look as if they have a dewy coating over the top; this is one of the main signs of a bacterial disease names slime flux. For more information on slime flux and how to pinpoint prominent symptoms, take a look at this RHS page.

The second sign of damaged roots is small branches sprouting from the trunk of the tree at the base. Tiny sprouts suggest that the tree is under severe stress and requires professional help.

Fungus Growth

Fungus growth is an extremely unappealing, yet familiar, problem trees face. As wood starts to decay, the fungus will begin to grow which makes your tree a hotspot for manifestation. The issue causes holes to form in the wood, where insects will start to inhabit and eat away at the rotting wood. Fungus growth is not a good sign; it means your tree is experiencing internal rot, making it likely to require a full removal.

fungus growing on a tree

Flood Injuries

Similarly to every other living being and object in the world, trees are dramatically affected by an overflow of water. Many trees are intolerant of flooding, and excess water will cause them to drown.

If there has been heavy consecutive rainfall or snow, it is worth giving your trees a health check. Take a look at the colouration of leaves; if they have more of a yellow tone rather than a green, your tree is beginning to drown in the excessive water. Another issue caused by water is root dieback, which means that the soil is so saturated with water, trees cannot absorb the vital oxygen required to remain healthy.

In the UK, flooded trees are less common; however, a well-known example is the large oak tree in intu Milton Keynes. Midsummer Place shopping centre was originally built around the large Oak Tree, which unfortunately died in 2015 due to poor drainage which caused the tree to drown as revealed in BBC News. There are now plans in place to create a piece of public art to remember the Oak Tree, using the original wood builders managed to save.

As tree surgeons in Milton Keynes living and working locally to the shopping centre, we were devastated to hear the news. It is vital to call a professional as soon as you notice an issue, we are dedicated to finding a solution to solve the problem without having to remove the tree.

Regular Tree Maintenance Checks

It is essential to carry out regular maintenance checks to uncover the health of your tree. It is a great shame to ever have to disrupt any growing life, however, is often unavoidable. Be sure to always keep a look out for these eight signs mentioned!

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