Winter Trees - Alive or Dead?

Trees in your garden can provide year round interest and provide a welcome habitat for birds and wildlife as well as flowers in the spring time and fruit in the summer.

However, many species of trees can appear to be dead during the winter months, leading to accidental removal of an actually healthy tree. You should have dead or diseased trees professionally removed to avoid the risk of one falling and causing damage to property, but how do you tell which ones are healthy and which need to go?

If you're not sure whether one of your winter trees is dead or alive, here's how to tell.

Check for buds

Even during the depths of winter, your tree should have tiny green leaf buds on it. Have a good look over your tree for signs of budding life. If you can find no buds at all or if the buds appear shrivelled and dry, it's likely that the tree is dead or in serious trouble. Similarly, trees that are still carrying leaves well past the autumn drop can also be in poor health.

Examine the tree trunk

As trees grow, they shed their bark in the same way as they do their leaves. The bark replaces itself as it regrows so you should be able to see healthy new bark appearing to fill the spaces left where dead bark has come away.

If one of your trees has lost layers of its bark but shows no signs of replacing them, it could be dying. Large fissures and cracks in the tree trunk are also indicative of a tree that is dying. Serious signs of trouble like these should be highlighted to your local tree services company, as the tree may be in danger of falling and need urgent removal.

Scratch test the tree's branches

A very quick and easy test for life in your trees is the scratch test. Take a small knife and very lightly scratch a tiny spot on one of the tree's outermost twigs. The material underneath the bark should be green and moist. If the wood is brown, dry, and brittle, the tree could be dead.

You can also try gently bending a few of the tree's smaller twigs. If they bend easily without snapping, the tree is alive. Twigs that snap, revealing brown dry wood beneath are clearly dead.

In conclusion

If you suspect that one of your winter trees is dead rather than dormant, carry out the above tests to check. For more advice on the health of your trees, ask your local tree service contractor to check them for you.