Is My Tree Still Alive? Determining whether your trees are dormant or dead is a great addition to your spring clean-up list. As the snow melts and the garden begins to appear once again, ensuring all your trees are alive and healthy is significant to a blooming garden in the summertime. It is normal for trees to drop leaves or needles during the fall season and go into dormancy to conserve energy in the winter. One activity you can do to tell if your tree is alive is the “Scratch Test.” This test starts with obtaining a sharp pruning tool that fits the tree size and then carefully with that tool you will lightly shave a small piece of bark from any branch of your choosing. Behind this bark will be the tissue of the branch which, if healthy will look pale and green with a moist firmness to it. However, the tissue that is brittle, dry, mushy, and cracks easily is considered inactive and dying. In some cases, understanding when your tree is dead is by looking at exterior rot and horizontal cracks in the bark of the trunk. These signs indicate that your tree can no longer absorb nutrients, thus stopping any new growth.

Signs to look out for: Cracking of the bark, discoloration in the wood, sawdust at the bottom of the trunk of the tree (seen with Poplars and Aspens), and dieback with sections on the top of the tree. In the event that your tree has decaying branches or needs complete removal, professional help can be contacted for easy extraction. A dead tree becomes a hazard for those around it and is highly recommended to be cut down as soon as possible. In the Edmonton area, if you own the tree, you are allowed to remove or change it without any permits or signed permissions. In special cases where it is an Elm tree, the pruning is only permitted between October 1 and March 31st.

For more information, please visit