Spring and summer are perfect for spending time in nature. However, when you do look at your trees, some might not be in the best of health. So, how do you know whether a tree is dead or dormant? Whether you need arborist services or tree cutting services? Use this guide.

Do A Snap Test

Also known as the snap-snatch test, this identifier can help determine whether your tree is dormant or dead. Before diving into what happens in this test or how to do it, you need to understand what cambium is. It’s the green part that’s visible after you shave off the bark and it’s the key indicator of life in the tree.

To do this test, you’ll need a knife and you’ll shave a part off the bark or you can even get a thick branch of the tree and snap it to see the cambium. If the inside of the bark is green, then the tree is still alive, but dormant because of the season, but if it’s black and crumbly from the inside, then it’s likely to be dead.

Assess The Buds

Dormant trees are still capable of growing buds and that’s also a huge sign of life in trees. Sometimes the season or the harsh weather can cause the trees to go dormant, but they’re not technically dead, even though there is little to no growth.

What you should do is look at the buds of the trees and see if they’re growing still. If they’re green and luscious, then your tree is dormant. Dead trees aren’t able to grow buds and any branches on which there were buds before will wilt and go brown and that’s the sign of a dead tree. So, whenever you’re in doubt, check the buds, because the answer to your question lies there.

Examine The Roots

Older trees have roots sticking out of the ground, near the trunk and if you look at them then they can be a clear sign of life or death in the tree. Roots are the powerhouse of trees.

They’re what absorb the nutrients, water, and minerals from the soil and ground and nourish the trees from the inside out. So, what happens when the roots are not working properly? This can lead to the tree becoming malnourished and there aren’t any nutrients that will allow the tree to grow.

But what’s the sign of roots going bad? Well, exposed roots, and damaged or cut-up roots are clear indicators that the tree isn’t getting nourished, and if it continues like this, then the tree will likely die.

The Bark Tells A Lot

Did you know that trees can regenerate their barks and that this phenomenon is a clear sign that the tree is happy, healthy, and thriving? Well, if you’re worried about your trees being dormant or dead, then looking at the bark will also give you a good idea as to what’s going on with it.

Just like how dormant trees still grow buds and they’re healthy, the same goes for the bark of the tree. Even if a tree is dormant, the old barks will shed and will be replaced by new ones. However, a dead tree fails to do so.

Check The Trunk

If there’s visible damage to the trunk of the tree, then it should worry you. The trunk of the tree is more like an armor that protects the inside of the tree from weather damage and other external factors.

However, that’s not always the case, especially when the very armor has chinks in it. If there are deep cavities, cracks, and ax marks on the trunk, then it’s only a matter of time until the tree reaches its end. Until then the tree is dormant, but it’s unable to protect itself. Find tree services Chevy Chase who can inspect the tree and provide you solutions.

Are There Dead Branches?

The branches can also give away the health of a tree and whether it’s dormant or not. In a dormant tree, even though there won’t be any visible growth of leaves, fruits, or flowers, the branches will still look relatively healthy and that’s a great sign.

However, if the branches are falling off, they’re turning dark brown and there aren’t even any leaves on them, then this should concern you because there might be something that has damaged the tree to the extent that it can’t grow anything else or even nourish the branches.

How Do The Leaves Look?

Speaking of leaves, you want to check them as well, if you want to look for signs in the tree whether it’s gone dormant or if it’s on the verge of death. Dormant trees are still alive and they will have healthy and green leaves.

The leaves also won’t fall off as easily, so you don’t need to worry too much about the dormancy of the trees. However, dead trees turn the healthy leaves to a pale-yellow color and they dry up and shrivel to nothing. The leaves also detach themselves from the branches and fall off even with the slightest gust of wind and that’s not a good sign at all.

Are There Cavities?

When looking at the trunk of the tree, you also want to look for huge holes or deep cavities on it. These holes aren’t normal and they’re cavities. Just like how cavities affect the teeth, they can affect the trunk of the tree as well. Think of them as holes made by external agents, birds, and insects and this action causes the trees to get weak.

Healthy and even dormant trees don’t have cavities in them, but older trees that are not doing great at all, will have a bunch of deep cavities and it’s pretty much a point of no return for them.

Look Out For Termites

Termites love wood and they feast on it, especially trees. So, if you see a pale-yellow powdery substance latching onto the woody parts of the trees and that the infestation is growing by the hour, then those are most likely termites.

Termites feast on healthy and dying trees alike and they can spread, especially when the trees are closer in vicinity. So, if you see yellow sawdust on the trees, then it’s time to tackle this issue because the tree is not doing great.

Severe Tree Wounds

Some people think that tree wounds and cavities are the same, but they’re slightly different from one another. Cavities are deep holes, whereas tree wounds are dark spots on trees that can be big or small, depending on the severity of the damage and those spots are surrounded by a thick, light-colored border.

The cause of tree wounds can include weather, impact damage, woodpeckers, and more, but it’s the ticket to the death of the tree. So, if your tree is showing signs of a severe wound, then it’s probably dying. Dormant trees don’t have wounds.


Dormant and dead trees have completely different signs and with these telltale signs, you’ll be able to identify the real problem and get to the bottom of it. In case the tree is dead and you want to safely fell it, contact tree removal companies Kensington.

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