Regular tree inspections can catch changes in a tree’s health before a disease, insect, or environmental problem becomes too serious to address. Ideally, mature trees should be inspected at least once a year to assess four characteristics of tree vitality: new leaf or bud formation, leaf size, twig growth, and absence of crown dieback (gradual death of the upper part of the tree).
Growth reduction is a fairly reliable cue that the tree’s health has recently changed. An experienced arborist can look at twig growth from past years to determine whether there is a reduction in the tree’s typical growth pattern.
Further signs of poor tree health are trunk decay, crown dieback, or both. These symptoms often indicate problems that began several years before. Loose bark, deformed growths, and conks (mushrooms) are common signs of stem decay.
Any abnormalities found during these inspections, such as insect activity and/or spotted, deformed, discolored, or dead leaves and twigs, should be noted and monitored closely. If you are uncertain about what to do, report your findings to your local ISA Certified Arborist or other tree care professional for advice on treatment options.