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Did Your Tree Survive the Winter? These Are the Signs to Look For

By April 9, 2020June 23rd, 2020Tree Removal
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The species of trees native to Colorado are hardy and adept at weathering harsh winters. However, spring blizzards and windstorms pose a much greater risk to dead and dried out tree wood. It is important to spot the signs of a dead or dying tree early so that it can be addressed before it becomes a hazard.

Spotting Dead Trees For Professional Removal

Dead trees become dry and brittle making them far more likely to fall during a spring blizzard or windstorm, particularly once the root system is compromised. The removal of dead or dying trees will reduce the hazard of the tree falling and causing damage to a roof, vehicle, or other structure. Hiring a professional tree removal service for this is important for safety reasons.

Dead limbs pose a similar hazard because they snap much more easily and can fall some distance to land on structures below. Dead tree branch removal not only mitigates the hazard of it falling, but it also encourages healthy growth throughout the rest of the tree.

Colorado’s dry winters and fluctuating temperatures can be tough on trees and shrubs. A long winter may be particularly rough on a tree that is already unhealthy. Trees become dormant in the winter in order to conserve water and to keep their cells from freezing.

Trees wake up from dormancy when the temperatures start to change, so a late spring may make it more difficult to tell if a tree is dead or just still dormant. Luckily there are a few markers to look for through the winter and spring.

These are the signs to look for to determine whether your tree is dead, or whether it is still in winter dormancy:
  1. Tree Buds

tree inspection colorado springsTree buds are most obvious in the spring as they swell and turn green and become ready to open up, however, these buds actually form in the fall and can be spotted throughout the winter. If the leaves on your tree haven’t formed yet, look for the buds.

On a healthy tree you will be able to spot them at the tips of tree branches.

A tree limb that does not have buds is most likely dead. Look for whether the whole tree is missing buds, or whether just a few branches are bare.

A tree may have formed buds before dying. The best way to check if this is the case is to see if the branches are brittle and break easily.

  1. Leaves and Branches

A healthy tree branch will be pliable when bent and the leaves will have fallen from the tree completely in the autumn, leaving only the sleeping buds.

Clinging dead brown leaves indicate dead branches. A dead branch is dried out and will snap much more easily.

These may require removal by a tree professional both for the health and future growth of the tree, and to decrease the hazard of dead branches breaking and falling on structures below.

  1. The Bark

A healthy tree will have a layer of green inner bark beneath the outer layer of brown bark. The best way to test this is to scratch away the top layer of bark to see if it is bright green and soft underneath, or brown and brittle.

If bark has fallen off of the tree leaving smooth wood underneath it exposed, this is also an indicator that the tree is dead or dying because a healthy tree will replace the missing bark. Tree branches with missing bark are more susceptible to breaking without proper removal.

  1. The Roots

A healthy root system is the most important factor to the overall health of the tree. Strong healthy roots keep water and nutrients moving through the tree and they keep the tree standing upright even through blizzards and windstorms.

If the tree is leaning to one side or if the wood at the base of the tree is soft and spongy, this may indicate root rot. If the soil around the larger roots is raised or cracked this may indicate that the tree is starting to uproot.

When the root system becomes compromised the tree is far more likely to snap and break, or even uproot and fall completely in a blizzard or strong wind. It is important to have a tree with root damage professionally removed to prevent the hazard of the whole tree falling.

  1. Fungus

While not all fungus is harmful to your tree, the presence of fungus can be a red flag. The wood in a dead tree can become soft and decayed which encourages additional fungus growth. Fungus growth on the outside of a tree may indicate rot on the inside of the tree.

If you find that mushrooms have formed at the base of the tree this may indicate rot. Some types of fungus feed on the tree increasing the speed of the decay process. The best way to gauge whether the tree fungus is harming the tree is to have it looked at by a tree care professional.


Keeping your yard healthy and thriving not only adds to the aesthetic appeal of your property, but it also prevents unnecessary risk of damage to a roof or vehicles. If you are seeing signs that your tree may be dead or dying it is best to have a tree removal expert assess the tree to determine what needs to be done. While sometimes an unhealthy tree may be able to bounce back with proper care, it is important that dead trees and branches are removed professionally before a strong wind removes them naturally.

Join the discussion 6 Comments

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  • Zoe Campos says:

    It really helped when you said that branches that are brittle and break easily might be a sign that the tree is already dead. It still has a few leaves, so we never thought of it as completely dead even though this symptom is really evident. However, if other plants will be affected, I think it’s time that we consider hiring removal services for the said tree.

  • Great tips! I fully agree with these tips, and these signs also we as a company are looking for when we provide tree services.

  • I totally agree with what you’ve mentioned out that when the root system becomes compromised the tree is far more likely to snap and break, or even uproot and fall completely in a blizzard or strong wind. It’s a painful and dangerous choice since they can cause thousands of dollars’ worth of property damage. In our case, we had it all, our oak tree fell completely into our new car in the early morning hours when it began to rain heavily in RI area. We have to take responsibility for all damages and it’s true a professional tree removal ri services will help you save time from the beginning

  • The stems begin to photosynthesize in winter if the temperatures are warm enough. Yet, in this instance, the tree doesn’t absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Instead, it creates part of its own carbon dioxide, which it utilizes. Respiration is a process that plants go through in addition to photosynthesis

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