As wonderful as it is to have trees on your property, there’s always a certain risk one will fall. It tends to come as a huge surprise, but even though trees sometimes fall without warning, there are usually signs that indicate one could snap or become uprooted in the near future.
Whether it’s because of wind or water damage, fungi, insects, or structural issues, trees regularly become weakened to the point that a fall is likely. That’s when you need to take action — before damage occurs to your home, structures like power lines, or even a person.
It’s important to inspect your trees carefully from top to bottom. Some of these signs are obvious, but others are much more subtle.
If you do see these signs, it’s important to contact a certified arborist right away. Trees are complex systems. That means an arborist won’t be able to predict exactly when a tree will fall. But they can help you trim the tree to make it more structurally sound, or if it’s past the point of no return, they can help you remove it.
So here’s what you should be on the lookout for in your yard — signs that a tree will fall:
Leaning Means a Tree May Fall
A little lean isn’t unusual, and is generally safe. Trees, like other plants, will lean to find light or because of a persistent exposure to wind over several years.
But if you see a sharp lean beginning to form, that’s definitely a sign that the tree is losing strength and could fall soon. It should be a particular concern if a strong storm has caused the tree to suddenly lean.
Pay attention to the base of the tree. If the soil is heaving (swelling upwards), that’s a clear sign that a tree will soon fall. If there’s standing water, or very wet soil near the tree’s roots, the fall will happen even faster. Contact an arborist right away if you see soil heaving.
Watch for Missing Bark
Trees that are dying tend to have issues with bark, so look around the trunk. Peeling bark or bark that’s missing entirely could mean that the tree is dead or dying in that particular area, which becomes a likely spot for the tree to split and fall over.
Damaged or Diseased Roots are Another Warning Sign
If the roots are not strong enough, a tree will fall. While the roots are not generally exposed — itself a sign that a tree will fall — there are methods to determine the integrity of a root system from above the surface.
Look for fungi and mushrooms around the base of the tree. It’s one of the most common signs of a sick tree and signals that the roots are rotting, in which case the tree could be one bad storm away from falling.
Look Out for Cracks in the Trunk or Multiple Trunks
Look out for trunks that have split or cracked. That’s only going to get worse and is likely to eventually lead to a fall. While an arborist can’t heal a split tree, they can use cables or another method to halt the damage before it gets worse.
A tree having multiple trunks that form a V or U shape isn’t a sign that a tree is in imminent danger of falling, but it is worth noting and keeping an eye on because it signals a structural weakness that could lead to falling at some point.
Falling Branches Are Bad News
Dead or fallen branches are a sign that the tree itself is in danger of falling. Trees have a way of self pruning, so losing branches can mean that the tree isn’t getting enough nutrients to sustain itself at its current size or is coping with a bug infestation. In its weakened state, it may be at risk of falling.
Falling leaves out of season, although less dramatic, can also be a sign that a tree is unhealthy and in danger of coming down.
You should also be aware that even if a tree itself isn’t in immediate danger of falling, its branches, if damaged or weakened, can pose a serious risk to your home or folks on your property.
Contact an Arborist If You See Signs That Your Tree May Fall
If you notice any of these warning signs on your trees, don’t hesitate to have a certified arborist come investigate. You might be surprised — an arborist could be able to salvage a tree that appears dead. Even if that’s not the case, you can prevent a tree from falling, and all of the damage that goes along with that.