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How to determine if a white dogwood tree is alive or dead

White dogwood trees are among the most beloved flowering deciduous trees in the country, and for good reason. Known for their long, graceful branches and striking bracts, white dogwoods are generally planted as show or accent trees due to their impressive ornamental value that lasts all four seasons. The U.S. Department of Agriculture groups white dogwoods, or Cornus Florida, in plant hardiness zones 4 through 9, extending throughout the eastern parts of the United States.

In these areas, climatic and environmental conditions change. This means that without proper care, dogwoods can easily succumb to stress in these external conditions, which can make them more vulnerable to damage, disease, and pest infestations. If you have a white dogwood tree on your property that looks unhealthy, read on to learn how to determine if it is alive or dead.

Common signs of stress

It is important to check your trees regularly for any signs of stress. Spotting a problem early on can save your trees, but it can also save you a lot of hassle. Not addressing tree problems will not only jeopardize safety, but can also lead to costly repairs in the event a tree falls on a car or home. As for dogwoods, they are sensitive trees that require special attention in certain circumstances. For example, lawn mowing and weeding should be very careful near dogwood trees because they have shallow root systems.

And when it comes to fertilization, they will respond poorly to the slightest miscalculation. Too much fertilizer will cause as much stress as too little. Poor sunlight and unsuitable soil conditions will also put them under stress, causing them to lose health and vigor. Common signs of stress include leaf loss, crown dieback, stunted growth, poor foliage color, and more. Over time, a Dogwood that exhibits these signs of stress will eventually die.

Checking for life

To see if a white dogwood tree is alive or not, you can administer a simple DIY test. The only tool you will need is a small pocket knife. To save time, keep in mind that a dogwood tree that does not grow leaves for the entire growing season is dead. So if you’ve noticed that your White Dogwood hasn’t bloomed at all and the peak tree growing season is over, it’s most likely dead. If this is not the case with your White Dogwood, proceed with testing to determine if it is alive or not.

Step 1

Examine the bark of the tree, focusing on the base of the trunk and the base of the larger branches. If the bark is peeling, it could indicate that the tree is sick or dying. If the bark has peeled or comes off easily at the thickest part of the branch, the branch is dead, but perhaps not the entire tree. If a ring of bark is missing around the base of the trunk, the entire tree is likely dead.

Step 2

Use your pocket knife to scrape 1 inch of bark from the base of the tree trunk. If the bark is firm and the pulp moist, the tree is alive. If it is dry and brittle, the tree is dead.

Step 3

Grab a small twig on its tip and press your fingernail into the meat. If it can penetrate the damp tissue of the twig, it is alive. Fold it in half to see if the twig is flexible and the pulp is green. This is another hint of life. If the twig breaks easily and is dry inside, it is dead.

Professional tree care

If you are uncomfortable or unable to perform this test, contact a trusted local tree care company for professional assistance. They have the right tools, training, and resources to accurately inspect all North American tree species, as well as to diagnose, treat, and remove them when necessary.

A dead dogwood should be removed as soon as possible to avoid dangerous accidents and pest problems. Get a free quote from your tree care specialist to estimate the cost of your tree removal service. Always remember that routine tree care is the first and only step in keeping your trees healthy and happy to stand the test of time!

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