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The Dutchess DIYer

Learn how to properly care for your property, discover tell-all signs of maintenance needs

and how to become a better homeowner.

  • Dutchess Lawns

How To Check If A Tree Is Alive Or Dead

Springtime is one season where you can enjoy nature as it births new life. Animals come out of hibernation, and bare trees start growing new leafy foliage. But sometimes, you may notice that your trees aren’t booming with new buds as it should and you may start wondering if your tree is alive or dead.

There are various ways to determine if your tree is indeed alive or dead. One such method is the scratch test. The low rainfalls and high temperatures have really taken their toll on a lot of trees. Even trees that are tolerant to drought are starting to feel the stress of going several year without adequate water, particularly in the summer months.

Dying or dead trees can topple easily in shifting winds or soils and when they fall, they can cause a lot of damage. Because of this, you need to find out early on if the trees near your homes are dying or dead.

The first, and most obvious way to determine if the tree is dying is to inspect it closely. Take a closer look at it; try to see if the tree has any health branches, and if they are covered with new leaf buds or leaves. If there are no leaf buds/leaves then you may start considering the possibility that the tree is dead. There are however further test you can carry out to confirm the status of the tree. Bend the smaller branches of the tree to check if they’ll break; if they break easily without arching then you can be sure the tree is dead. If you want to confirm the status, you can carry out a scratch test. The scratch test is one of the best ways of determining if a plant is alive or not.

The cambium layer of the bark lies underneath the dry outer layer of the bark of a tree trunk. If you use a small pocketknife or your fingernail to remove a small strip of the exterior bark, you’ll be able to see the layer below. If you scratch the tree trunk and notice green tissue, then the tree is still alive. This test doesn’t always work with single branches since the branch may be bead while the rest of the tree is still alive.

When there is high temperature and severe drought, tress may “sacrifice” a branch or two so that the rest of the tree may survive. So if you do carry out a scratch test, make sure you do it to different branches. Or better yet, stick to the trunk of the tree.

Inspecting your trees annually is an essential task. The best times to inspect the tree is when it just lost its leaves and just before it gets time. Or you can carry out your inspections at the end of Fall and the start of Spring.

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