Ah, Spring, the Best Time to Assess Tree Health

April 1, 2020 · 1 minute read
Ah, Spring, the Best Time to Assess Tree Health

As a climber, spring is absolutely my favorite time of year to climb and care for trees. While it’s true the temperature and weather conditions are quite pleasant, this isn’t the reason it’s my favorite time to care for trees. The conditions are simply ideal to properly inspect tree health — the emerging buds and leaves offer a great indicator of health, yet we are still able to see the entire structure of the tree before the full summer canopy has a chance to hide any imperfections, such as deadwood or other potential hazards.

Emerging buds and leaves offer a great indicator of tree health.

Prior to working on or ascending any tree, I conduct a 360-degree assessment of the tree’s overall health and structure. You can do this at home as well by conducting your own analysis. The process varies, however, I typically start from the ground up and include the following:

Root System

  • Cracks in soil or raised soil around base?
    • Possible risk of uprooting.
  • Mushrooms and/or fungus in the area surrounding the tree?
    • Possible sign of root rot and decay.


  • Change in degree of lean?
    • Possible risk of uprooting.
  • Mushrooms and/or fungus on trunk?
    • Possible sign of trunk rot and decay.
  • Structural flaws?
    • Cavities, hollows, lightning strikes and other decay should be evaluated thoroughly as they vary greatly among species and severity of flaw. 


  • Inspect, buds, leaves and appearance of bark to determine whether the branch is healthy, declining or dead.
  • Check for cracked/ split, broken and hanging branches.


  • Are last year’s leaves still hanging on?
    • This can vary by species, but is often an indicator of a dead limb and/or tree.

Among other practices, utilizing these assessment guidelines has helped me climb and conduct tree work safely. However, the risk obviously varies greatly based on species, severity and other environmental factors. In some cases, a tree can continue to survive with many of these factors. In other cases, it takes just one to cause failure.

Please reach out to us should you have any questions! We love our trees and we love our community of tree lovers!