Common Causes of Tree Problems and Tree Deterioration

Tree problems and tree deterioration can be the result of many common causes. When a tree begins to have problems or to show signs of deterioration, try to determine the cause of its condition. There are many common causes of tree problems that you should check for. Although many smaller plants have built in mechanisms to protect themselves, larger plants do not. You many need to seal up cracks, repair gashes from broken limbs caused by lightning, or deal with any of the following problems:

"Tree Problems"

Damaged Trees

Life Span

Has your tree reached the end of its natural life? Although oaks (and the evergreen hemlock and sequoia) can live for centuries, many trees have a much shorter life span. Some, such as certain types of willows and poplars, may succumb after fewer than 30 years.


Was your tree planted in a bad location, perhaps by someone more concerned about the view or appearance rather than the soil or light exposure of that area? If so, it may be struggling to survive in a thin layer of worn-out soil over rocks, hardpan, or in a swamp. It may be located too near a building, driveway, or the neighbor’s swimming pool; or it may be leaning badly and require straightening.


Has it been attacked by insects, animals, or a disease? Although healthy trees are often able to fend off predators, sometimes there is no know antidote, as in the case of Dutch elm disease, which killed off nearly every American elm in the mid-20th century. I personally had to have a huge elm cut down in my backyard. It cost me $1000 to have it cut down. It was a sad time as we loved that big tree.

Natural Disasters

Has it been hit by strong winds, ice storms, or lightning? Devastating weahter can strip off large healthy limbs or topple entire trees while you stand by helplessly, wondering what to do with the mess.

"Tree Deterioration and Damage"

Badly Damaged Tree

Environmental Conditions

There are other causes to be concerned about. Your tree may be damaged due to road salt runoff, traffic fumes, or other pollution may weaken or otherwise adversely affect a tree, as can paving, leakage from an oil tank, or heavy traffic over the roots.


Lack of nutrients is a common cause of stress in trees. Make sure you fertilize your trees yearly.

Graft Failure

Some of the newer hybrids, such as some with colored leaves, are grafted and may be short-lived. The ‘Crimson King’ maples are often short-lived in the colder zones, although if they are grown on their own roots, they seem to live much longer.

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