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Trees: Decay Detection

Some description

One of the most common types of tree diseases is wood or trunk decay. Decay in a tree can result in dangerously weak trees, unsightly trees, or shortened tree life. Unfortunately, tree decay cannot be cured. Proper tree care can, however, prevent decay or greatly limit the progress of tree decay. 

Decay is a condition that results from the digestion of wood by fungi and other microbes. Wounds through the bark start the processes that lead to decay. Wounds that expose the wood can be caused by animals, insects, birds, fire, storms, freezes and human activities, such as accidentally hitting a tree trunk with a mower or making a poor pruning cut. Of course, not all wounds lead to decay. Proper care of tree wounds can lessen the chance that decay will result. When a tree is wounded, a natural process begins where the tree covers the wound with bark and new wood. Proper care of tree wounds begins with practices that promote this callusing growth.


Decay can be a sign that your tree is moving from an asset to a liability. If you notice symptoms of decay on your trees, first, and most importantly, assess the location and amount of decay.

Be sure to look for:

  • cavities
  • excessive deadwood
  • loose or missing bark
  • fungal conks
  • carpenter ants
  • lean
  • weak branch attachment
  • root damage
  • poor wound closure


Since internal decay isn’t always obvious, your local Davey arborist may use advanced tools to assess and document hidden decay in a tree. Your local, professionally trained Davey arborist can help you maintain healthy trees and work with you to develop a plan to manage tree risks that might include pruning, cabling, bracing, or removal when necessary.

If you think you have identified the beginning signs of decay, contact your local certified arborist to help take the proper steps to keep your tree from becoming a liability. 

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