Identifying Hazardous Trees That Should Be Removed

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Trees play a major role in the environment and provide unique benefits to our cities and homes. Trees truly are Mother Nature’s masterpieces, but when trees fall on homes, cars, or even injure someone, they  become liabilities.

Trees that have structural defects that can make them likely to fall, partially or entirely, are hazardous trees. Often we are unaware of the risks associated with defective trees. Damaged trees pose a threat to people and property. These defects may arise as a result of age, fire, unfavorable weather conditions and diseases.


Arborists specialize in dealing with damaged trees and also help to reduce the risk associated with them. An arborist assesses the risks associated with trees. Call an arborist if you’re not sure how to proceed, and if you’re in the Mid-Michigan area, call us.

It is important to examine trees before and after storm and snowfall. Large tress are more likely to be hazardous than smaller trees. Sometimes, when a tree has a serious issue, it shows minimal or no warning signs. To identify a hazardous tree, here is what to check for:

Dead or Broken Branches

Broken limbs from trees can fall and injure someone or damage property. When a tree’s limb has lost more than a third of its circumference, you should remove it.

Cavities in the Trunk or Branches

Any stress or unfavorable weather such as storms, fires or improper pruning can result in a cavity. For example, the some trees are vulnerable to fungal infection, which causes them to decay. Birds and other animals make decaying trees their habitat through the cavity. When the tree becomes rotten, it is prone to fall during a strong wind.

Rot and Fungus

Dying branches, fading foliage, premature shedding, irregular growth throughout the tree crown, and the presence of bark beetles are some signs to look out for in a tree infected by fungi.

Cracks in the Trunk or Branches

This is a structural defect in the trunk or main stem of the tree. Cracks may occur as a result of frequent high winds, lightning strikes and decays.

Trees Growing in a Construction Zone

Disruption to the soil when constructing a new drive way or utility line can affect the stability of the tree by affecting the roots, especially shallow feeder roots. If roots are damaged, it may destabilize the tree.

While the importance of trees and other plants cannot be over emphasized, timely tree assessment is crucial for safety. Structural defects are best observed in winter, late fall and early spring when there are no leaves on the tree. Any defects caused by diseases are best detected in early fall and late summer.

Some factors that should be considered when identifying hazardous trees include:

  1. Site conditions
  • Soil type
  • Depth of bedrock
  • Direction of prevailing winds
  • Erosion near the tree
  1. Biotic and Abiotic factors
  • Wind damage
  • Flood effect
  • Pathogen present
  • Insect activity e.g. termite infested tree
  • Tree community
  1. Human activity
  • Removal of root
  • Paving obstructing root
  • Injuries from mowers


Branch Spacing: If tree limbs are not well spaced, one or more branches are likely to fall during a heavy wind or storm. Pruning can help.

Age: This is a major issue to consider when doing tree assessment. The older a tree becomes, the weaker it gets with time. Younger trees are more likely to have stronger limbs.

Cracks: When there is a partial crack on any part of a tree, the integrity of the tree should be put in check.

Canker: This is a fungal disease of woody plants that causes localized damage to the bark. The presences of canker increases the failure rate of the tree.

Decay: Decay on any part of a tree may not immediately indicate threat of failure of the tree, but advanced decay may indicate greater hazard.

Dead wood: Here the tree lacks its flexibility to bend in the wind like a living tree branch.

Epicormic growth: This is growth from a a dormant bud on a tree. It is normally found at the base of a tree, branches, and main stem. It may lead to damage or insect infestation.

Stand: Trees exposed to open areas are prone to failure, while trees which are grown in closed forest stand firmly due to less action of prevailing wind.

When there is a reduction of leaf production or lack of leaves on all or any part of a tree, proper assessment should be carried out.


It is necessary that you call for the services of professionals when you notice the presence of a hazardous tree. These professionals are well-equipped to easily spot the little defects that can make a tree hazardous. Not only will they help you get rid of the tree, they will also provide you with tangible advice on how to prevent other trees in the vicinity from falling into the same situation.  For Mid-Michigan tree services, call Aerial Tree Services.