How to Have Hearty and High-Reaching Trees

Do Trees Die From the Top Down?

Urban trees have many more challenges to contend with than their rural counterparts do. Root space is at a premium, water isn't as readily available and the risk of damage due to accidents is higher. Because of this, urban trees tend to have shorter lifespans than rural trees.

But unless you are a qualified arborist, assessing the condition of an ailing tree can be difficult. Trees exhibit symptoms of distress in many different ways.

If your tree is dying from the top down, which is a condition arborists call dieback, you should do a little detective work to identify the cause of the problem.

Trees die from the top down for several reasons.

Pests Contribute to Dieback

There are too many pests to list here, but the signs shouldn't be too difficult to spot if you look carefully enough. Check your tree's roots, trunk and branches for telltale signs of pest infestation. Look for signs, such as:

  • Tiny holes that indicate the presence of borers, like the emerald ash borer.
  • Wood shavings on the ground around your tree could be an indication of carpenter ants.
  • Mud tubes on the roots or trunk indicate the presence of termites.

These are three of the most common pests. However, pests often attack weakened trees, so the main issue could be something else entirely.

Drought Causes Dieback

Has the weather been especially hot in recent times? If so, your tree may not have had access to enough water to keep itself hydrated and in peak condition. This damage doesn't show quickly, however. For instance, a drought that occurred years ago could be the cause of a tree dying from the top down today.

Trees take much longer to exhibit symptoms than say, humans do.

Overwatering Leads to Dieback

Trees may also begin to die from the top down if their owners overwater them, or if a flood has left their roots saturated in water for a prolonged period. Too much water causes rot, which then brings fungal diseases that attack tree roots. Dieback from the top down is a common symptom of overwatering.

Tree-Root Damage Initiates Dieback

A healthy tree relies on a strong root system to keep it vital since tree roots bring in water and nutrients that the tree then distributes throughout its branches. However, in an urban setting, vehicles, lawnmowers, dogs and building work, among other things can damage tree roots. The risks are many and varied.

If a tree cannot adequately feed itself because its roots are in poor condition, it will begin to die from the top down.

Trees die from the top down for many reasons. If your tree is dying in this manner and you are unsure why, call an arborist. A qualified arborist might still be able to save your tree.