How To Tell If A Tree Is Dead Or Alive

7:30 PM, Jul 18, 2012   |    comments
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FAIRFAX COUNTY, Va., (WUSA) -- Trees provide us with shade in the summer, a burst of color in the fall and enhance the landscape and property.  But that towering oak, elm or maple may not be as healthy as you think.  

So, here's what you need to know about those mature trees on your property that will alleviate the hassle and headache of having to haul it away if mother nature happens to blow it down.

A healthy tree can adapt and survive and will withstand the harshest of elements.  Trees are large woody perennial plants, and like human beings, they can get sick and die.  

And just like any living thing, they need regular checkups and should be routinely inspected.

Fairfax County Public Information Officer Brian Worthy says, "While it may not always be obvious when a tree could pose a hazard, there are signs that a tree may be in danger of falling."

Dead branches in the tree or on the ground near the tree.  If the larger branches on the tree are brittle, break off or begin to fall, the tree may be dead.  Dead wood looks dry and lifeless and can easily break.  A brittle dry branch cannot bend in the wind like a healthy branch.

At the start of the Spring season, look closely for leaf and bud growth.  If there is no growth, you should continue to frequently examine the tree.  If the tree shows no signs of life, it may be dead.

In the Fall, if the tree leaves lose their green, there is excessive leaf loss at the top of the tree or leaves fall from the branches as soon as autumn begins, you should check for signs of disease.

Different diseases can impact the health of a tree.  It's good to inspect the tree for mold growth, dead branches and diseased leaves.

Break off a small branch or twig.  If it breaks easily and is brown inside and does not have any soft or green wood, there's a chance the tree may be dead. 

A good tests to check to see if a tree is alive and healthy is to scrape off or chisel a portion of the bark. Look for green, soft wood just beneath the bark layer.  If it is not, it could be dead.

If there's a change in how the tree leans, mushrooms near the base, heaved or cracked ground near the base of the tree or the ground is damaged from construction, erosion or storms, it may be in danger of falling.

Worthy says. "Residents who are concerned about hazardous trees should call 911 if there is an immediate threat to life or property or a tree is blocking a public road or sidewalk."

Also, call your local utility company if a tree falls onto power lines.

And, never approach or touch trees or limbs that contact power lines.  It may be energized and extremely dangerous.

How To Spot A Dangerous Tree And What To Do

Dominion Power 1-888-667-3000, TTY 711


NOVEC 703-335-0500, TTY 711

PEPCO 1-877-737-2662

SMECO 1-877-747-6326

BGE 1-877-778-2222

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