At a glance, it can sometimes be rather easy to tell if one of the trees on your property has begun to rot. Although the tree might still have foliage, there can be certain key branches that are not flourishing and look like they're dead, in comparison to other parts of the tree. However, it can be difficult to spot problems with a deciduous tree in the colder months, when the entirety of the tree looks rather similar, regardless of its overall health. So how can you spot a tree that's in peril? And is it possible to save the tree?

Warning Signs

A tree will generally show signs of rot in isolated branches before the condition worsens and begins to overwhelm the entire tree. In the warmer months, or with evergreen trees, these signs can be easy to spot, with yellowing leaves being a major indication of trouble before rot sets in. But what about when these seasonal signifiers are not available?

A Closer Look

If you feel concerned about whether a tree is rotting, you need to take a closer look. Although many of the key signs are more evident based upon the season, it's not as though colder weather makes it truly impossible to spot the warning signs. Look at the bark on the trunk and major branches. Is it cracked or even missing in large sections? Carefully touch the bark. Does it feel soft and mushy and come off easily? Abnormal growth on the tree (such as fungi) can also indicate that the tree is rotting.

A Certain Sacrifice

Just how long the tree has been rotting will determine whether it's too late to be saved. Even if this is possible, it might be that large sections of the tree will need to be sacrificed to save the whole. Don't simply cut off branches that appear to be rotten. Call in a professional arborist to precisely determine which sections will need to be removed.

Safety Around the Tree

In the interim, you should consider the tree to be dangerous. When rot has advanced, branches of the tree can easily fall, posing a clear and present danger. Tell your family to avoid the tree. If you have a dog or cat, you might wish to erect a barrier around the tree (wooden stakes and chicken wire) to keep them away. It's a crude solution, but it's only temporary. The tree should be professionally assessed as soon as possible so that preservation measures can begin. If the tree is beyond saving, tree removal will be necessary, and this should happen immediately to prevent the tree from becoming more dangerous.

A rotten tree can often be one that is beyond saving, but quick action can hopefully prevent the loss of the tree.