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Tree Disease Signs That Are Easy To Miss


There are many obvious signs of tree disease that we have previously covered, but some are quite subtle and easy to miss so here are some helpful tips to spot the not-so-easy signs of a sick and diseased tree.

Changes to the Bark

If the bark on your tree changes it may do so slowly and be easily missed even though it is easy to see once you look. If you see black or white spots on the bark or the bark is discoloured then this is a sign of a fungus and a sick tree. We have also looked at tree fungus before and it gets complex quickly so you should definitely call a professional. Cracked, peeling and brittle or even spongy bark are also sure signs of sickness.

A Cracked Trunk

Occasionally these can be harmless, they just happen as the tree gets older and expands or adapts to its heavier weight. However, if you see splits that are more sudden and go deeper past the bark then this is usually a very bad sign of a sick and structurally compromised tree so you should consult an arborist asap.

Less Foliage

Healthy trees will display maximum foliage (leaves and flowers) during spring and summer so if your tree is suddenly not producing greenery or as much as in previous years then this is almost a sure sign of sickness. A thinned-out canopy leaves browning early and less of them being produced are all majorly bad signs. Your tree can still be saved but only with the right treatment and as early as possible.

Ultimately, if the tree cannot produce leaves it cannot breathe and will obviously die so treating the cause asap is crucial. When checking deciduous trees, look to see if dead leaves are still clinging to them and other needle areas are bare. This is also a very bad sign as the needles should drop off naturally.

Leaf Discolouration

If your tree’s leaves suddenly appear to be different, even in patches this can also be a sign of sickness or lack of water. Not enough nutrients are usually displayed by yellowing or leaf discolouration. Lack of sunlight can also cause this but whether it’s sunlight, water or food, leaf discolouration is telling you it’s one of these and time to take action.


The most common pests in Australia for trees are:

  • Termites – Look for wood shavings, termite wings, mud tubes on the tree bark, an unstable or hollow trunk, or termite nests in the soil around the tree base
  • Leaf Beetles – Keep a lookout for ‘shothole’ or ‘scattergun’ damage to leaves
  • Wood Wasps – Search for meandering galleries under the bark packed with fine boring dust and round, clean-cut holes that penetrate the wood
  • Stem Borers – Presence of sawdust, calluses and cracked bark, lifted bark, exit holes, swelling, leaking sap, ring-barking and withered branch tips

Most pests are very treatable and usually won’t kill your tree that quickly, but regular checks are key.