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The Top 13 Signs of Hazardous Trees

The Top 13 Signs of Hazardous Trees

For most people trees are a symbol of strength and toughness. “He’s as strong as an Oak Tree!” While it is true to a certain extent, just like we shouldn’t take strong people for granted, we shouldn’t take the strength of our trees for granted.

There are warning signs that your trees are in trouble that shouldn’t be ignored.

When trees become structurally unsound and finally break, they can do a lot of damage. There are a number of structural defects that can be tough for the untrained eye to see such as broken limbs, bad branch attachments, splits, cavities, and more.

Mayer Tree Service is always here to help. In this blog, we’ll discuss the top 7 signs of hazardous trees from our expert arborists. If you spot any of them on your property or would like us to take a look at your trees and evaluate them, feel free to give us a call.


At Mayer Tree Service in Essex, we are here to help you take care of your trees. While hazardous trees may still look beautiful, they can actually be dangerous. If left untended, these trees can fall and damage property or even injure someone. 

Don’t leave the health of your trees to chance. There are signs to look out for that indicate your trees could be in trouble.

When you are able to spot issues with your trees, you’ll be able to get a jumpstart on their care. This prevents larger issues and greatly reduces the chance of your trees needing to be removed. 

Your trees may be trying to tell you something. Here are the top 7 signs of hazardous trees to be aware of.

Dead Tree


It may sound obvious, but when our tree service teams are out and about serving families and businesses on the North Shore and Southern New Hampshire, we see standing dead trees everywhere. Along the roads, in parks, on commercial sites, and in yards all over the area.

Dead trees, especially dead trees that have been dead for six months or more are literally an accident waiting to happen.



Bad branch attachments, including bark or “V” crotches, are the most common type of storm damage we see. Damage such as these examples are extremely dangerous and should be dealt with and evaluated very quickly.

If you notice bad branch attachments on trees on your property call us at Mayer Tree Service as soon as possible.

Branch Attachment
Branch Attachment 2
Decay 2


Decay can happen anywhere in a tree but it is most common at the bottom of the tree because this area stays wet the longest. Decay found at the bottom of the tree is where it is most dangerous as decay at the foundation spread through the entire structure of the tree.


Cavities are wounds that are too large for the tree to close.  The interior wood decays more rapidly than the new wood can close the wound.  If the cylinder or trunk is compromised by more than a third the structural integrity is compromised

Tree Cavity
Tree Cavity 2


Decay fungi indicate that part of the tree is rotting.  Rotten or compromised wood is more likely to break.

Decay fungi destroy the cell wall components of the woody components of the tree. Depending on various factors as a fungus grows on a tree it can attack the living parts of the tree and its central core.

Infected trunks and limbs can become unstable and unable to support their own weight. Weaknesses caused by fungus are not always visible from the outside of the tree if the bark is not damaged.

It is crucial to have your trees inspected by an arborist who is trained to identify structural defects in trees.

Hanging, Broken, or Damaged Limbs

Hanging or broken tree limbs can be one of the most obvious signs of hazardous trees. Some broken limbs will hang down from the tree, making it simple to notice that it is a danger. 

However, not all hanging, broken, or damaged limbs are obvious and it may require closer inspection.

Another thing to look out for is cracks or splits, which can indicate more extensive damage to the tree. 

If you notice any hanging, broken, or damaged limbs, you’ll want to have the tree inspected by a professional. They will be able to carefully inspect every part of the tree for cracks, splits, and other signs of damage to determine the severity of the tree’s situation and perform any needed care. 

Broken Limbs

Dead Limbs

Dead limbs can be harder to spot than hanging or broken limbs and are just as dangerous. In fact, dead branches are typically the first branches to fall from a hazardous tree. 

Many people are unaware that they have a dead limb on their tree, making the hazard even greater. In fact, when unattended to, dead limbs can remain for years, decaying the tree and spreading to the live, healthy tissue in the tree. 

When inspecting deciduous trees, look for limbs with no leaves or brown leaves. If the tree is an evergreen tree, check for limbs with brown needles and no bark. 

If you find these signs on a limb of your tree, you may be able to prune it yourself to remove the issue. However, if the limb is not easy to access, or if you are concerned that the decay might have spread, you’ll want to call in a professional. 


Edge trees, growing on the outside of a wooded area reach for the light as they grow to cause them to lean which makes them more likely to fail.

If you are lucky enough to have a group of trees on your yard, keep an eye on the edge trees as they are the trees most likely to be damaged first.

Edge Trees
Edge Trees


Girdling cuts through the bark of the tree.  Right under the bark is the area where trees transport water and soil nutrients to the leaves so they can photosynthesize and then distribute food throughout the tree. 

That is why anything wrapped around the trunk can kill the tree in a few season.  This is easy to recognize and avoid


Lichens are a unique organism in that they are a combination of fungus and algae. The fungus grows on a moist part of the tree and the algae use that moisture to thrive and create energy from the sun, which in turn feeds the fungus.

Lichen is harmless to the tree but when you see a heavy lichen on trees it can indicate the tree may be sick, potentially brittle and vulnerable.


Changes in the Bark

Some trees like River Birch, Paper Bark Maple, Shaf Bark, Hickory, Sugar Maple and others have naturally exfoliating or peeling bark. Ironically this is an indication that the tree is growing rapidly and healthy.

Most times, however, when you see bark peeling or falling off is an indication that the tree is not healthy and should be removed. Since identifying different species of tree can be difficult have an expert look at your tree so you know for sure what species you are dealing with.

Root Damage

Signs of hazardous trees can include root damage that affects the health of the tree. This damage can easily occur during construction or due to drought without anyone becoming aware. In fact, when roots are damaged by construction activities or a drought situation, it can be years before any signs appear. 

Roots are the tree’s source of life and their anchor to the ground. When they are damaged or even killed, it slowly begins to affect the tree and creates a risk. Damaged roots can actually cause the entire tree to die over time. 

To see if you have hazardous trees from root damage, look for wilting, undersized leaves, thinning foliage, stunted growth, and dead branches. While these can be signs of root damage, they can also be indicators of other conditions. If you notice these signs, you will want to have a team of experts inspect your tree to determine the cause and the course of care that it needs. 

Weakened Trees

Trees can be weakened during certain situations such as the clearing of trees. If your tree is leftover from an extensive clearing, its natural habitat has changed. They may have lost a previous windbreak or other types of protection that they had come to depend on. 

When a tree is exposed, especially after having been protected for years, it becomes weak and more susceptible to damage and other dangers. Weakened trees become hazardous trees because they are open and unprotected from potential risks. In these situations, it’s important to have these trees inspected regularly for a decent length of time.

Signs of Hazardous Trees - Do YOU SEE THEM ON YOUR PROPERTY

Hazardous trees can fall, putting you, your family, your property, and others, at risk. Keeping your trees strong, healthy, and protected is essential. 

By paying attention to your trees and inspecting them regularly, you may be able to notice issues before they become too severe. Once you find signs of potential tree damage, you will want to contact the professionals at Mayer Tree Service right away. They will be able to confirm and diagnose any issues with your trees, as well as develop a plan for their care. 

While there are multiple signs of hazardous trees that you can look out for, keep in mind that you may not always be able to notice the damage occurring to your trees. Make sure to contact Mayer Tree Service in Essex, Plaistow, NH or Lincoln to have your trees regularly inspected by the experts. With awareness and care, you can keep your trees healthy and prevent danger.

If you have questions about tree service or plant health care or would like an estimate, give us a call at 978-768-6999 or click here to contact us.

If you’d like to learn more about Late Winter Tree Care – Our Top 10 Tips For Healthy Trees This Spring just click here.

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