Got Rot? How to Know When One of Your Trees is Rotting

A serious illness might have been developing for quite some time before any visible symptoms appear. This is true for humans and animals but is also accurate for any living thing—including the trees in your backyard. By the time you become aware that a tree is rotting, it may be too late to save the tree. But what are some clear indicators that one of your trees is slowly but surely rotting away?


One of the first signs is your tree's foliage. It will begin to yellow and wilt, before detaching from the tree. This will look much like a tree often does in the autumn months but will happen regardless of the season, affecting evergreen and deciduous trees alike.

Trunk and Branches

As the tree continues to rot, twigs and branches may die and fall to the ground. Depending on the size of these branches, the tree may already pose a risk to you, your family, and your property. Parts of the tree's trunk and major branches will begin to look noticeably unhealthy, and sections of bark will be shed. You might also spot fungal growth on the tree.


You will need to closely look at the trunk. Gently remove a small section of bark to inspect the wood beneath. Wood's tensile strength is due to an organic polymer called lignin. The wood should be rigid, and relatively dry. As a tree rots, it can no longer regulate its lignin production. If the trunk appears to be damp and spongy, its rot may have well and truly set in. You should also check for strange bulges and bumps in the trunk and major branches. This can mean that the tree has deteriorated to the point that it can no longer support its own weight, and is beginning to buckle. 

Diagnosis and Solutions

Contact a qualified arborist for a formal diagnosis. There's a chance that your tree's rot can be reversed, but this depends on how advanced it is, and the classification of the rot (dry or wet). The tree's rot may also be caused by parasitic infection (insects). Removal of the parasite (followed by some ongoing TLC) may save the tree. But if the trunk appears to be buckling, the tree is likely to be beyond saving. In this case, tree removal is the best solution. Even when it's possible to treat the tree's rot, the complexity of this task (and the length of time it will take) means removal can still be the most convenient way forward.

It's disappointing when a tree succumbs to rot, but you could have easily missed the early warning signs. In many cases, a rotten tree is a tree that must be removed. Contact tree removal services in your area for more information.