Three Tree Symptoms That Require Immediate Action

There are a variety of signs and symptoms that can suggest a tree is at high risk of failure, but many of these red flags go unnoticed by homeowners and landscapers. This is completely understandable, as few people have the training and knowledge to spot the subtle differences between healthy, sound trees and those that may collapse at any time.

However, there are three signs of imminent failure that are obvious enough that laypersons can and should recognize. If you see a tree exhibiting any of the following signs, have the tree evaluated by a trained arborist immediately.

Sudden Lean or Soil Mounding

While some trees naturally grow in a leaning fashion and are able to remain stable for their entire lives, but those that that develop a sudden lean demand action – even if the lean is subtle. These trees are already in the process of failing. Either the soil has become unstable, and is allowing the roots to slip free, or the tree’s roots are actually diseased and have begun to tear. Both possibilities are equally troubling.

Often, trees pull the soil up on the side opposite the lean, causing a mound to form. These mounds can vary in severity, with some looking like only slightly raised areas of soil that are not immediately obvious, while others produce large, rounded, igloo-shaped mounds of dirt extending a few feet above the surrounding soil.

Such trees are incredibly dangerous, and they require immediate removal in most cases. Keep people and pets away from trees that lean like this, and contact a professional arborist for assistance.

Crack in Co-Dominant Trunk

Co-dominant, or “twin,” tree trunks are often subject to breakage at the junction of the two stems. Unlike proper branches, which enjoy very strong attachment to the tree; co-dominant trunks are not true branches; so, they lack the stability and resistance to decay that typical branch junctions do.

Eventually, many of these trees split apart at the junction, which is doubly troubling: You not only have half a tree crashing down on your property, you must also deal with the remaining portion of the tree, which will likely be mortally wounded and require removal itself.

While you should have co-dominant trees examined by an arborist periodically, removal is not required for many. However, assessment and mitigating measures are required whenever these stem junctions begin to crack.

Sudden Limb Drop

Trees lose limbs for a variety of reasons. Many are shed naturally as they become shaded by higher branches, while others may fail due to storm or insect damage. But occasionally, otherwise healthy-appearing trees can drop limbs. Such trees are at increased risk of shedding additional branches or failing outright – either of which represents a serious safety hazard. Because this most often occurs during the summer, it is often called “summer limb drop.”

Only a skilled and experienced arborist can ascertain whether sudden limp drop is likely to be a one-off occurrence or the opening salvo from a tree likely to shower the area in deadly wooden missiles over the next weeks or month. Just make sure that you treat unexplained or sudden limb drop as the serious issue it may be – no matter the date or season.



Trees are beautiful, valuable resources for people, but they can cause incredible property damage, injuries or even deaths if they fail. Accordingly, it is wise to be observant of your trees, watch for the three signs listed above and have your favorite local arborists inspect your trees periodically for signs of trouble.