At DGS Trees we are often asked the following:

  • Is my oak tree dangerous?
  • Is my neighbour's tree dangerous or hazardous?
  • Is my tree too large?
  • Is my tree in danger of falling?
  • Does my tree look dangerous?
  • Is my tree is leaning too much?
  • Have my tree roots moved ?
  • Is my tree dead?

There’s lots of scenarios for all of the above to consider, so keep things simple we are going to provide you with a some basic pointers to look out for when looking at your tree or trees. If any of the following items are seen on your tree it is suggested you seek the help of a local tree expert.

1. Fungal brackets or mushrooms near the base or root-plate of the tree (fungal pathogens)

Fungal brackets or mushrooms do not always mean the tree or trees are dangerous and need to be felled, there are many fungal brackets and mushrooms that don’t cause decay in trees. On the other hand though there are many that do cause decay and can cause your tree or trees to become structurally unstable and ultimately unsafe to retain.

In the example below, you can see the extent of decay circled red, with just a small area of non decayed wood highlighted yellow, this tree fell on the house as it was structurally unsound due to the presence of a fungal pathogens decaying the wood. Had the fungus been spotted and identified earlier the tree could have been removed and avoided damage to the house and potentially people too!!!

If you spot any fungal pathogens near you tree seek the help of a suitably trained professional with at least a level 2 training competency in tree surveying / inspecting, you should be able to obtain a free site visit in the first instance.

At DGS trees we offer all of our customers free no obligation quotations for work that includes looking at trees our customers are concerned about.

2. Large dead branches in my tree?

If there are large dead branches in your tree this can be quite normal but can also be a sign of something more serious going on that you should be concerned about !!

To begin it’s about extent and coverage of deadwood that give us a clue if it’s just normal or something to be concerned about. Here are some examples that we wouldn’t be too concerned about.

1:   “There are a couple of large dead branches in my tree” Whilst it might be sensible to remove the branches for safety reasons, it’s very common to have a few dead branches in the canopy, after all its a living this and there are many reasons why a couple of dead branches might be visible that could include, adverse weather causing damage, animals chewing off bark, too much shade in that specific area and so on. None of these issues affect the whole tree and its continued retention, these are isolated incidents that with some light remedial works are easily addressed.

2:   “My tree has deadwood all over on the tips of branches” Die-back all over from the ens of branches is usually an indication of a root problem. This may be as a result of recent building works severing roots and or compaction of the soil. Compacting the soil and essentially squashing the soil removes all of the small gaps necessary in the soil for movement of water, nutrients and oxygen essential for the roots to do their job and support the structure above ground. Soil compaction is a potential killer for trees but there are remedial works that can be undertaken if caught early, such air spading to de-compact the soil, see the video link for an example  Video Link https://vimeo.com/168186571

The tree below clearly appears to be suffering from a root related problem, in this scenario it’s probably not too much of a problem, no roads, people or buildings, risk is all about the targets and not really the tree, whilst this tree is clearly struggling if it falls what’s the risk of hitting someone working in the field? Probably very low indeed. However this tree next to your house or road is a very different story and risk altogether!

To summarise all trees contain deadwood, a small amount of scattered deadwood (less than 10% of the total crown area) is usually normal and shouldn’t be considered too concerning. However overall die back from the tips (ends of the branches) either concentrated on one side or all over the canopy is a clue something needs closer investigation! You should seek professional advice if your tree is suffering with deadwood overall or you are just concerned at the amount of deadwood in the tree for any reason!

3. My tree has Decay on the trunk and or base of the tree

Decay is obviously a concern and you don’t usually have to be an expert to spot decayed wood! In the picture below you can see some obvious decay at the base that requires closer investigation by a suitably qualified and competent individual.

However there are other instances where decay is less obvious to spot and sometimes everything seems to be fine! It’s worth having your trees inspected regularly to avoid undetected decay in trees by a suitably qualified tree expert.

4. My branches or tree trunk looks like it has a crack in it?

The term "co-dominant stems" is used to describe 2 or more main stems (or "leaders") that are about the same diameter and emerge from the same location on the main trunk as seen in the picture above.

As the tree grows older, the stems remain similar in size without any single one becoming dominant.

Why are such stems important to recognize?

  • Co-dominant stems tend to fail much more often than others, especially in storms.
  • Though such stems may look fine to the casual observer, they may actually be dangerous.
  • Early recognition of such stems allows remedial action when it does the most good.
  • Many of our most common trees in the UK commonly form co-dominant stems.

How can you tell if there is a serious problem?

  • Classifying co-dominant stems into 3 risk stages can aid in their management:
    • Risk Stage 1: does the union between the two stems form a "V" but there are no other symptoms?
      • A "V" union is much more likely to fail than a "U"
      • Stems with a "V" union compress bark between them as they grow, leaving little physical connection
    • Risk Stage 2: are there symptoms of decay in the union?
      • Can you see rotted matter between the stems?
      • Is there any fluid flowing from the union?
      • Are there woody plants growing in the union?                                                     
      • Do you see wide "ears" (swelling) on either side of the union?
    • Risk Stage 3: is there any sign of failure?
      • Can you see any cracks in the union itself?
      • Is reaction wood being formed rapidly at the base of the stems?

If you have a co-dominant stem that you are concerned about you should seek the advice of a trained professional.

This is by no means intended to be used as an extensive guide to tree hazard assessment, this article is intended as an opportunity for the laymen to understand some common tree related problems that can cause a tree to fail and fall. This article should ideally be used a reference guide to help spot common tree related problems and seek help.

Mark Hines – ND Arb

DGS Trees