As wonderful as trees can be, over the course of their lives they can be party to numerous afflictions such as diseases, rot, infestations and many more. If caught in time, many of these issues can be solved by a qualified tree surgeon. Unfortunately, it isn’t always immediately obvious to a homeowner whether or not a tree is in need of aid.

So, what signs should you look for on a tree to know whether of not to call in the professionals?

Look at the tree as a whole

While it is easy to get close up and personal with the tree to see if there are any issues, make sure that you stand at a distance and look at the tree as a whole. More often than not you can tell if something is wrong with the tree just by the way it looks. Maybe it has reduced or an unbalanced canopy. If your gut tells you something is wrong, it’s worth investigating further.

Lack of Leaves

Canopy cover can be a great indicator of a tree’s health. If your tree has lop-sided canopy cover from a distance, the branches which are bare are likely to be suffering from some sort of problem. It could be due to an infestation, or even due to a sudden change in temperature. Regardless, a healthy tree should have extensive and even coverage of leaves throughout spring and summer.

Large Dead Branches

While it is normal for a tree to have the odd dead branch here and there, but seeing multiple large dead branches on a tree is a sign that something may be wrong. Branches that have been dead for a while are likely to have no bark on them, and if pressure is applied are likely to snap very easily. This could be a result of root damage due to nearby building works or worse, therefore it may be worth contacting an arboricultural consultant who can provide you with the information you need.

Excessive Leaning

While it is completely normal for a tree to lean ever so slightly due to the effect of the elements as it ages, if your tree is leaning greater than at a 15 degree angle, there is a strong chance that there are issues with the roots. A tree that is leaning excessively is considered to be dangerous, especially if it is in a busy location where pedestrians walk, or within reach of a building.

Overgrown Branches

If you have multiple trees with a small area, you may find that these trees are fighting each other for light, causing overgrown branches. Having too many trees in a small area can become a hazard as the tree ages because its larger size will require more resources, and if these resources are split between several tree, then it is unlikely that any of the trees are getting the nutrients, light and water they need to stay healthy.


There are many diseases across the world that affect different types of trees. In the UK, many arboricultural experts are fighting the spread of Ash Dieback and Dutch Elm Disease, both of which have caused a huge fall in the number of healthy trees. While different tree diseases work in different ways, the symptoms can often be similar. If you see mildew on leaves, peeling bark or dark spots on the trunk or branches that weren’t there before, there is a strong chance that the tree has contracted a disease. In these situations, it is worth calling out a tree surgeon as they may be able to save the tree.

Fungus & Decay

Decay and fungus can affect any tree and is not always fatal especially if they have been checked by a professional. However, excessive fungal growth and larger decaying segments of the trunk can be a sign that something is wrong and if there are mushrooms and shelved fungus growing around the base of the tree, this could mean that the tree may be rotting from the inside out.


There have been many insects such as beetles and termites that cause untold woe across tree populations worldwide – and this is true in the UK as well. Specimens such as the eight-toothed spruce bark beetle and the great spruce bark beetle have wreaked havoc across the UK over the last 40 years, often burrowing in the wood to lay their eggs. Once these eggs have hatched into larvae, the larva will continue eating away at the wood as they mature. This greatly affects the structural integrity of the tree and if left untreated, will ultimately kill it.

Root Damage

While roots are – more often than not – below the ground, there are certain signs to look for if you suspect something is wrong. The easiest sign is the wilting of the tree in general, which occurs because the damaged roots are unable to gather the necessary resources from the ground to stay healthy. This includes yellowing leaves, a lack of foliage leaves or growth issues from year to year. You may even find that the roots themselves have pushed through the top soil and are visible. While this is not necessarily a sign of illness, if the higher roots are not complemented by stronger, deeper roots then the tree may not be as stable as it seems.

Keeping a tree healthy is a vital part of having it on your grounds. This is not just because of the loss of a beautiful tree if it falls, but also because if it falls and hurts somebody or damages someone else’s property, you would be liable in court. By asking a tree surgeon to perform a tree risk assessment survey, you can show that you have showed due diligence by contacting a professional.

Matthew Lally has worked with trees across Europe for over 15 years. He holds a degree in arboriculture and is recognised as a LANTRA Professional Tree Inspector, and as a professional member of the Arboricultural Association. So, if you need of some friendly advice, a tree survey, a risk inspection, or a TPO consultation, why not contact Lally Tree Management today?