There are some really compelling reasons to have trees in your yard, including their ability to clean the air, increase your property value, buffer noise pollution, and save you money on energy costs. On top of that, trees are simply beautiful and amazing gifts of nature. If all of that isn’t enough, spending time around trees and in forests is also known to have a long list of health benefits.

All that being said, there are also risks associated with having trees on your property.

One danger when it comes to having trees near your home is that dead tree branches will fall and cause injury or property damage.

How exactly can you tell if your tree has dead branches? Let’s take a look.

Why It Matters Whether Your Branches Are Dead or Alive

It isn’t just aesthetically unappealing when you have dead tree branches, but it can also be quite dangerous. This is because dead branches are prone to breaking, meaning that they can fall on your property and potentially cause damage to your structures or even a person.

It’s worth understanding why dead tree branches are so brittle. Basically, dead tree branches are no longer being supplied with nutrients and moisture from the roots and trunk. This is what makes it possible for dead tree branches to snap and fall out of nowhere.

Dead trees can also cause damage to power lines. This could leave you and your neighborhood without power and could put people at risk.

How to Tell If You Have Dead Tree Branches

There are a number of signs you can look out for if you are concerned that you have dead tree branches.

Fungal Growth or Decay

One thing you can look out for is decay or fungal growth on either the branches or even the trunk of a tree. This occurs when the external bark of a tree is no longer replenished by the growth of tree rings. This bark layer can become porous and dry and allow the fungus to attach itself and grow.

To look more extensively into the question, you can also prune off one of your branches that you are concerned is dead. You can then cut it crosswise to take a look at its growth rings and interior bark. If you see internal decay here, then your branches are dead or dying.

It’s worth noting that lichen doesn’t damage or cause the death of trees. Lichen is a hybrid of fungus and algae.

Falling Leaves and Twigs

Another way to notice if you have dead tree branches is to keep an eye out for falling leaves and twigs during the growing season. This can indicate that your tree or branches are no longer supporting active growth or in decline. It can also indicate that the tree is in poor health or has a disease.

If you notice that leaves are falling in the summer, this can also be a sign of heat stress. Basically, this doesn’t necessarily indicate that your branches or your tree are dying. Trees that suffer from heat stress can recover with proper care.

Check the Condition of Leaf and Flower Buds – Dead Tree Branches

It is common for trees to develop leaf and flower buds months before it is time for them to open up. You might notice that some of the trees on your property develop buds prior to winter that then won’t open until spring. You can learn a lot of about the health of your branches from the condition of the buds on them.

If your branches are healthy and alive, the buds will be shiny, smooth, and well-formed. An intact outer covering helps to protect each bud from winter weather.

On the other hand, if you notice that your buds are dry and shriveled then it is a sign that the branches aren’t receiving nutrients and water anymore. This might indicate that the branches are already dead.

Bark Condition

Trees have a complex bark system that includes an outer bark and an inner bark. The inner bark layers are known as the phloem and the cambium. It is here that new layers of wood are created and nutrients are routed to all of the different parts of the tree.

You can try the “scratch test” in order to find out whether your branch is alive or dead. What this consists of is scratching the outer bark gently to expose the inner bark. The branch is probably alive if the inner bark is flexible, moist, green, and looks fresh, but if it’s brittle and dry then it’s probably dead.

As a quick note, don’t try this test on a branch that is still attached to a tree. If you do this, you can create an opening for pests or diseases to get into the system of your tree.

Branch Flexibility

When branches are healthy and alive, they are quite flexible. Flexibility allows trees to withstand high winds and winter storms as they move with the weather’s intense forces rather than trying to resist them. However, dead branches become dry and rigid.

The snap test is the best way to see how brittle branches are. You do this by holding a small twig or branch in both hands with your hands roughly six inches apart. Bend the branch just a little bit to see if it snaps or if it bends.

If the twig bends, it’s likely alive or has been alive recently. If it snaps, then your branches are probably dead.

Grace Tree Service: Your One-Stop Shop For Tree Pruning, Removal, and More

If you are unsure whether you have dead tree branches or if the branches are too high for you to safely access, it’s likely best to call a professional to take a look. At Grace Tree Service, we are equipped and trained to deal with just about any tree pruning or removal scenario you can think of.

Do you have tree decay, a loose branch, or another tree issue on your property? If so, contact us today!