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4 Ways to Spot Trees That Will Soon Fall Down

Old linden tree foliage in morning light
Sick and dying trees often give signs that they're at risk of toppling over onto roofs and vehicles. Learn how to spot the signs of a dangerous tree. Here are four methods to identify risky trees before they become hazards to people and property.
1. Know the Life Span of Trees
Every tree has a known life span. As a tree ages, it becomes more susceptible to falling. Trees in urban areas die sooner than trees in rural settings. Consider replacing trees that are at the end of their life span with trees that live longer.
Trees with shorter life spans - less than 50 years - include:
  • Laurel oak
  • Red bud
  • Bottle brush
  • Jacaranda

Large, older trees are a hazard if the trees are located where they might fall on power lines, structures, or vehicles. Schedule an inspection of short-lived species before strong winds and storms hit your area.
2. Look for the Missing Leaves
Take a good look at trees when leaves are green and lush. This is a good time to notice any branches that have dead leaves. Dead leaves on an otherwise fully green tree are signs that the branch or limb is dying.
If all or most of the limbs on one side of a tree are covered in dead leaves, the tree likely has structural damage on the affected side. A tree that's rotted on one side is more likely to fall.
When leaves die from the outermost branches first, this is a sign of root damage, such as from a fungal infection. Root damage is a problem because weakened tree roots can't hold the tree in the ground.
3. Study the Bark and the Trunk
How does the bark of the tree look? Is it healthy and whole, or is it covered with fungi and insect holes? Signs of decay to look for on the trunk include:
  • Shelf mushrooms
  • Round or D-shaped holes
  • Hollow spots
  • Slashes or scars
  • Small shoots growing from base
  • Mushrooms around trunk roots
  • Large areas of missing bark (canker)

Vertical cracks in the bark are another sign that a tree is struggling. A healthy tree sways with the wind and is flexible. But a stressed tree can't move smoothly with the wind, so cracks form along the bark.
According to the University of Maryland, if 25 percent or less of the trunk is affected, the tree may be salvageable. When a tree's trunk has severe damage on more than a quarter of its total surface, it's more vulnerable to pests and diseases. Have trees with extensive trunk decay professionally removed from your property.
4. Beware of the Leaning Tree
If a tree is leaning more than 15 percent, it could be a sign that the tree roots are weakening on one side. Trees that have naturally grown at a lean from their sapling years are less at risk.
A tree that suddenly begins to lean is a tree that may drop during strong winds, ice storms, or heavy rains. Waterlogged soil around weakened tree roots can't contain the weight of the tree when a heavy wind blows against the crown of the tree.
Leaning trees may also drop limbs more frequently. Dropping limbs on any tree are a sign that the tree may be rotted and at risk of collapse.
Don't wait until a tree lands on your car or your carport. Contact Joe Webster Tree Care, Inc., to have all of your trees inspected for potential hazards. We trim, prune, and remove limbs and trees that are at risk of falling for homeowners in Huntsville and the North Alabama region.
Joe Webster Tree Care, Inc.
219 Goodman Road SE,
Huntsville, AL 35803

Phone: 256-539-2150


Business Hours:
Monday-Friday, 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
After Hours by Appointment Only*


Certified Arborists, Bonded & Insured
Residential, Commercial & Industrial
When Available: Free Wood Chips