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Is My Tree Rotting?

How to tell if your tree is rotting from the inside. What can you do if it is rotting. Quinlan Tree Service is a professional tree care company serving Oakland County Michigan. Get a Free tree inspection today.

Trees that are diseased or dying can be an eyesore, contagious, and even hazardous.

Sometimes the symptoms of tree decay are obvious. Leaves fail to appear in the spring. Large swaths of bark disappear from the trunk. Branches become dry and riddled with holes from wood-boring pests.

But other times, it’s less clear when trees are in poor health. Signs of internal rot include mushrooms growing on brittle bark, branches falling off, and discolored leaves.

Decaying trees can be dangerous, as recent events have shown. Each year there are several news stories about trees falling and killing people.

 Most rotted tree fall by high winds and snow.

Shane Quinlan

Trees near the end of their lives are more likely to be knocked over during storms or by significant gusts and should be removed if they pose any danger to property or people.

The responsibility falls on the homeowner to maintain and/or remove dead hazardous trees.

Shane Quinlan of Quinlan Tree Service, recommends that homeowners and business owners survey their property for any obvious signs of decaying trees and call a certified arborist for trees that look in bad condition.

We hate to see an old tree go, but it comes down to safety.

Other signs that a tree may be decaying include:

  • Dead leaves clinging to branches of deciduous trees through the winter. On healthy trees, they should fall to the ground.
  • A tree that is beginning to lean, or has bare branches on one side, may have root damage.
  • Vertical cracks, or seams, on the trunk.
  • Areas of smooth wood where bark has fallen off. In healthy trees, new bark would grow in its place.
  • Small branches sprouting from the base of a tree.

Many residents often overlook such warning signs.

Tree service companies see it all the time. They get the call to trim a tree for a customer, but then they discover the tree is rotting inside. Next thing you know, the tree trimming project turns into a tree removal. The homeowner is left wondering how they didn’t even know the tree was diseased. They lose a great shade tree, maybe a tire swing, and a old tree that has been enjoyed by many generations.

How does this even happen?

How can a tree be rotting inside without anyone knowing?

Your Tree May Have Heart Rot.

Types of Heart Rot

When you notice tree rot, then your tree has been attacked by a fungus. This can manifest in the following three ways.

  • Brown Rot.

This is the most serious version. It causes your tree to decay, dry out, and crumble into pieces.

  • White Rot.

This is still severe as it too causes tree decay, but the wood will feel moist and spongy instead.

  • Soft Rot.

This can be caused by a fungal or bacterial infection. While it will still lead your tree to decay, the process is much slower and causes the least structural harm.

Heart rot is an extremely common disease that affects hardwood trees around the world. It’s characterized by rotting of the center flesh of the tree’s branches or trunk, causing the wood to decay into powder. Heart rot fungus enters the three through wounds in the bark. Mushrooms growing on the bark are a telltale sign of heart rot lurking inside the tree.

It takes years, sometimes decades, for heart rot to destroy the inside of a tree. Because it progresses so slowly, it’s common for people to have no idea what’s going on until the disease has ravaged the entire plant. Plus, most people don’t know that if mushrooms are growing on a tree’s bark, it’s a bad sign.

Some trees are very good at compartmentalizing heart rot. This means that the tree can limit the areas of the trunk or limbs that the fungus can access. That’s why you might see cavities develop in trees where limbs were removed years ago, but the tree seems to be healthy otherwise.

Can a Tree with Heart Rot Be Saved?

If heart rot has not progressed past a branch or two, it can be possible to cut off the affected branches and save the rest of the tree. However, this can have a negative effect on the aesthetics of the tree. And, if the branch removal site is not carefully sealed, you could expose the tree to more disease and damage.

If your tree has extensive heart rot, it’s ideal to remove the entire tree instead of pruning it. For homeowners, this change in plans can be confusing and even heartbreaking. But a tree that is rotting on the inside is going to continue to slowly weaken and die.

Eventually, a strong wind could topple the tree.  Who knows where might it land? On a car or on your house? It’s best to just remove this potential safety hazard.

Quinlan Tree Service has seen hundreds of tree pruning projects turn into tree removals due to the discovery of heart rot. Our crew will always advise the homeowner of the situation and make a recommendation based on the conditions of your tree. We know that making the decision to remove a tree can be difficult, and that’s why we answer all of your questions and help you understand you’re making the right decision.

Quinlan Tree Service performing a tree removal in White Lake, Michigan
Shane performing a tree removal

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