Tree Problems & The Spiral Into Tree Death

When do you seek help from a Certified Arborist, before or after you see problems in your trees? If you answered the latter, you’re definitely not alone. Most homeowners react to tree problems as soon as they see symptoms; however, did you know that waiting to react and then treat is actually more costly on your wallet and the environment?

Here’s the thing: even if trees are monitored by the most careful, watchful eyes possible, without proper expertise it is nearly impossible to anticipate problems. And, while it’s great to call a Certified Arborist as soon as damage is noticed, at that point the tree is already at the bottom of the spiral, sinking closer to death. 

Failing to provide proactive care often leads to the spiral of tree decline. Sadly, it’s a big reason trees for tree removal.

Continue reading to identify your tree’s problems and solutions, and what you can do to help your tree avoid this spiral into tree death.

Urban Trees vs Forest Trees

Tree problems are prevalent in urban and suburban areas. Unlike forest trees, trees in urbanized areas fail to receive the nutrients and nourishment their ancestors once had. This fosters into a multitude of tree problems.

These tree problems and lack of maintenance greatly reduce the lifespan of city trees. On average in the United States, trees in cities only live 30 years. It gets even worse in downtown areas where trees average a lifespan of only 10 years. Compare that to rural trees and trees in forests that live 150 years on average.

This difference in lifespans comes from the human and environmental stressors trees encounter in cities. Secondary invaders target stressed trees. These invaders are insects or diseases that typically only attack weakened, stressed, or old trees.

City trees have to deal with:

  • Lack of space for their roots to grow.
  • Snow salt damage.
  • lack of nutrients (when we rake leaves instead of letting them decompose we interrupt the natural cycle that creates nutrient rich soils for trees to grow in)
  • Damage from lawnmowers mowing over exposed roots and hitting their trunk.
  • Mechanical damage caused by string trimmers damaging tree bark.
  • Soil compaction from heavy trucks, foot traffic, and lawn mowers driving over the soil

But by treating these tree problems and participating in proper maintenance you can extend the lifespan of your tree to the 150 years seen in rural areas and the forest.

The Spiral Into Tree Death

The Spiral Into Tree Death, which captures the many contributing factors and problems that lead to tree decline.
The Spiral Into Tree Death, which captures the many contributing factors and problems that lead to tree decline.

Click on each factor below to learn more about it & to find out what you can do for your trees:

Urban environmentDefoliating Insects
Soil compactionExcavation
Poor fertilityDrought
Outside climactically adapted rangeExcessive salt
SaltFrost
Low soil moisture holding capacityCanker fungi
Poor soil drainageWood & bark boring insects
Climate changeRoot rot
Old ageVirus

Above is a representation of what we call the tree decline spiral. As you can see, there are a ton of factors that can affect the livelihood of your tree. The deeper into the spiral, the closer the tree is to death. But, if you’re hoping to save your trees, don’t worry – that’s what tree doctors are here to help you with.

This graphic features the common tree problems leading to tree decline. The common issues most people point out, such as pests and diseases, are deeper into the spiral; although those issues are easier to identify, unfortunately the plant’s health has almost reached its end.

Our team of Certified Arborists (“tree doctors”) will work with you to help your trees thrive. After all, tree preservation is our number one goal. As once said by Benjamin Franklin, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”


Looking For Expert Solutions To Your Tree Problems?


Identify Your Tree Problems

Leaning Tree:
Tree Problems 5

There are two kinds of leaning trees: those that lean naturally, and those that don’t. As you can guess, those which don’t lean naturally can be a cause for concern and will need to be addressed to your trusted tree service experts.

If your tree is leaning and you’re concerned about its structural integrity, you need to protect yourself, your family, and your property by contacting your Certified Arborist now.

Learn More About Leaning Trees and What To Do About Them

Tree Diseases:
Tree Problems 4

The development of tree diseases is often hard to identify by the untrained eye. There is a multitude of factors that contribute to the development of diseases in trees, from fungi and bacteria to environmental stressors.

What are common tree diseases?

Common diseases that affect trees include; anthracnose, leaf spot, sooty mold, honeydew, verticillium wilt, oak wilt, fire blight, dutch elm disease, bacterial leaf scorch.

Learn More About Tree Diseases

Tree Problems 2Tree Bugs:

Bugs can be beneficial insects or harmful pests that can negatively contribute to tree health. When it comes to tree pests, it’s important to resolve the problem before it gets worse and spreads throughout the rest of the tree and landscape. While plants may have their natural immune systems, it can be difficult for them to heal from a ravaging infestation.

Our Certified Arborists have a series of tree pest problem solutions that can support your landscape and help it recover from the pest problem.

Learn More About Tree Insects

Tree Fungus:
Tree Problems 3

Tree fungus and fungal diseases are very common problems in trees, especially in the spring. Symptoms, impact, and susceptibility depends on the type of tree fungus and your tree’s species. While certain tree fungus are harmless and some can even be beneficial, many are harmful and can make a long-lasting impact on the vigor and value of your trees.

Tree fungi are separated into four categories: root and butt rot, canker, foliar/shoot, and wilts.

1) Root rot is caused by fungi that are found in the soil and attack the roots of plants.
2) Cankers are caused by fungi that commonly enter the tree through wounds in the bark or branch stubs.
3) Foliar fungi are the most common, caused by fungi that attack the leaves of the tree or shrub interrupting photosynthesis.
4) Wilt diseases are caused by fungi that invade a tree’s vascular system. With the vascular system compromised the tree cannot transport water and nutrients throughout itself.

Learn More About Tree Fungus

Exposed Tree Roots:
Tree Problems 1

Exposed tree roots are natural, but if not managed correctly, they can become a problem. If people don’t tread carefully around them, especially with their lawn mowers, it can wound their critical roots that they rely on for their essential feeding and nourishment.

Learn How To Fix Exposed Tree Roots

Tree Sap:
Tree Problems

“Sap” dripping from trees isn’t just indicative of a tree problem, it’s also an annoying nuisance. It can be gross, difficult to remove, attract and can accumulate additional nuisances like flies and dirt. However, this substance isn’t sap – it’s honeydew!

Honeydew dripping from trees leads to the real concern: tree pests. From aphids to lace bugs and scale, the honeydew from trees is a telling sign that your tree is dealing with a pest problem.

Learn More About Tree Sap, Honeydew, & Sooty Mold

Tree Problems 6Soil Compaction:

Not all tree problems can be seen from a naked eye; soil compaction is the #1 example of this. In fact, soil compaction has been called the silent killer, as it lurks beneath ground and takes away your tree’s true ability to thrive.

Soil compaction naturally occurs in urban areas, due to the way the environment is structured. Fortunately, however, there are ways to improve your tree’s soil health that can help mimic the healthy, nourishing forest floor its ancestors grew up in.

Learn More About Soil Compaction


How Can I Help A Struggling Tree?

If your tree seems to be experiencing health problems, it’s best to have a Certified Arborist come out to diagnose and evaluate the situation. They’ll be able to assess the situation and provide you with the best solution for your trees.

As tree experts, we understand and recognize the daunting number of issues our plants face. As we strive to do the right thing for people and nature, we actively seek opportunities to provide optimal care for your trees – which starts with the comprehensive plan provided by our Canopy Protection Program.

Canopy Protection Program For Total Tree & Shrub Care

prevent tree problems through total tree and shrub care

However, the ultimate way to continuously make sure your trees don’t start sinking further into the spiral is simple: have an expert periodically check up on your trees throughout the year. Trees are just like us – they need routine checkups by their doctor, too!

The need for professional monitoring and care is precisely why we created our Canopy Protection Program. This program is professionally designed to help you and your plants cope with the issues prevalent in our urban area.

Our Canopy Protection Program is a recurring plan designed to help mitigate predisposing, inciting, and contributing factors before it’s too late.

It includes:

  • A tree doctor visiting your property 7 times throughout the year
  • 2 all-natural, organic biostimulants
  • Intensive treatments for tree diseases and tree bugs
  • Monitoring for all plants in your landscape

It’s simple: it’s the best gift you can give to your trees.


Reacting to tree problems and then treating can only do so much. Once the damage hits, there’s no going back. To best protect your tree, call us at 703.573.3029 or book an appointment online to have a Certified Arborist come out and solve your tree problems before it’s too late.