Tree identification from dried branch

Tree identification from dried branch

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I found a very interesting branch last week, and have been trying to identify it but cannot seem to find the answer. If anyone has any suggestion, I would be grateful.

I found it near the forest, around WA area.

Here's some picture:

This looks like dried cholla cactus, although it will be hard to determine the species. It is sold commonly for fishtanks, so might even be found in places where it does not grow naturally if someone cleaned out their fish tank.

EDIT by Ilan: on this image you can clearly see that the tree identified right:

How to Spot a Dead or Dying Tree

While it might seem obvious, it is actually difficult for the untrained eye to spot a dead or dying tree. At Leaf & Limb, removal is always a last resort, so we want to be completely sure that there is no other way to save the tree before we make the first cut. Here are a few ways you can check if your tree is dead of dying:


The clearest evidence of whether or not your tree is dead or dying can be found by looking at the leaves. Some trees will take a while to leaf out, but if your tree does not have a single leaf in August, then there is a significant problem.

To determine a tree’s health in the winter when there are no leaves, look for tree buds. These can be tough to spot, but they look like small dots along the ends of the branches (think of a connect-the-dots puzzle). If you don’t see those dots along the ends of the branches, the tree could be dead.

Evergreen trees are a bit different. They typically stay green all year round and cycle their leaves out. It’s common for the interior of the canopy to “shade out,” which means that the first needles to fall are the ones from the inside of the plant closet to the trunk. If you’re seeing the opposite happen – needles or other evergreen foliage turning brown at the ends of the branches first – then that tree might be dying.

Generally speaking, if any tree or shrub has brown leaves or needles in the summer, something is likely wrong. Be sure that it is not late enough in the season that you are just seeing the foliage changing color for the fall.


We’ve looked at the leaves of trees, but what do branches tell us about a tree’s health? One of the tell-tale signs that a tree is in decline is when we see multiple branches dying from the tips. If these multiple branches make up a large section or the entire canopy, the tree is undergoing stress and declining in health.

An important note about branches: a single dead branch or twig does not mean the entire tree is dead. All large trees will have some dead branches it’s part of their life cycle. However, if a tree has multiple large, dead branches, then something could be wrong with your tree.

One way we tell if a branch is alive is to test a small twig by bending it between two fingers. If it bends easily, then it is alive. If it is brittle and breaks, it is likely dead. We recommend testing this in a few areas so that you are not just testing a single dead branch. You can also scratch a small section of the bark. If you see green, the tree is alive. Both of these strategies work better for smaller trees and shrubs. Like we said above, it is common for larger trees to have dead branches. If you find a few brittle twigs on a 100-year old oak tree, that does not mean it is dead.


Moving down the trunk of the tree, there are a few signs that indicate a tree is dying. First, large sections of bark peeling off the trunk of the tree (if it’s not a trait of that species) might be the sign of a problem. Second, if there is a large amount of rot, especially if the rot goes all the way around the trunk, the tree might need to be removed.

Surprisingly, a hollow tree trunk does NOT mean that the tree is dead. A tree can still thrive and be sturdy with a hollow center. Think of it like a steel pipe: hollow in the center, but still very strong.


Finally, let’s look at the base of the tree. There are several issues there that might mean the tree is dying. First, a large number of mushrooms growing at the base of your tree might indicate significant root rot. Another thing to look for at the base of the tree is if the roots are lifting out of the ground. We are not talking about roots growing on the surface, but rather roots that are seperating from the ground. This can indicate that the tree is destabilized. In both cases, tree removal should be considered.

Other Considerations

If you’re not sure why your tree is dying, one common cause is construction damage. Everything from driving over roots with heavy machinery to digging a trench for high-speed Internet can damage a tree’s root system, causing the tree to die or become destabilized. If there has been significant construction and you’ve noticed that your tree’s appearance has changed, then the digging or compaction might have caused irreparable damage.

It’s also important to mention that not all dead trees need to be removed. If it is not a potential hazard, meaning it will not cause harm to people or property when it falls, then we typically recommend you leave it. Dead trees are habitats to bats, birds, and other animals, and they play an essential role in the ecosystem.

Should trees close to houses or building be removed?

Healthy trees close to houses or other buildings do not usually need to be removed. We often get calls to remove healthy trees just because they are close to a home or building. These trees, especially if they are mature, are usually very stable. If they are well taken care of, properly pruned, and don’t show signs of decay, they can stay where they are without posing a threat to your property.

Unfortunately, there are no set of guidelines that will say with 100% certainty when a tree should be removed, but hopefully you’ll now be able to spot signs of decay earlier. If you think a tree might be dead, it’s always a good idea to get a second opinion before removing it.

As always, contact us if you have questions about how to spot a dead or dying tree in your yard or community.

Bare to the Bones

The first thing you’ll probably notice about a dying tree (especially if you’ve lived on the property for a while) is that it no longer keeps its leaves. This is especially alarming in the spring and summertime when most are at full bloom.

If you’ve noticed that it’s been through a few seasons without any leaves, it’s reasonable to suspect that it might be dead.

If you still aren’t convinced that it’s dead, go around and look for buds along the branches. If there’s no sign of them anywhere around, then it’s likely that it is dying or already dead.

The very moment you determine that your tree is dead, be sure to reach out to a professional removal service and have it removed right away.

Shane Vaughn/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY 3.0

"Sweetgum is adaptable to a variety of conditions, preferring deep, moist, acidic soil and full sun. it grows rapidly when given such a situation but more slowly on dry sites or in less ideal soil. It is a little tricky to transplant because of its coarse root system, but root-pruned or container-grown trees from nurseries establish readily. The tiny seeds germinate freely if stratified and surface-sown in spring. "

"Be careful when locating Sweetgum as a street tree since its large, aggressive roots may lift curbs and sidewalks. Plant trees 8 to 10 feet or more from curbs. Some communities have large numbers of Sweetgum planted as street trees. Much of the root system is shallow (particularly in its native, moist habitat), but there are deep vertical roots directly beneath the trunk in well-drained and in some other soils. The fruit may be a litter nuisance to some in the fall, but this is usually only noticeable on hard surfaces, such as roads, patios, and sidewalks, where people could slip and fall on the fruit. "

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To find out more about this website, contact one of the people listed on the staff page or search all of our websites.

The information in this portal is based on research from NC State University Departments of Crop Science, Entomology, Horticultural Science, Plant Pathology, Soil Science, and Youth, Family and Community Sciences as well as from other universities.

Identification Basics

To figure out what kind of tree you are trying to identify, take a look at the following groups of trees. How a tree's needle is arranged on a twig is of major importance in matching them with the correct arrangement of needles.

Use the following images for illustration. Some needles are fastened in bundles attached to the twig, some are attached as whorls to and around the twig, and some are ​​singly attached around the twig.

Illustrated key of compound-leaved trees

Click on any image to see it enlarged. Then use your browser's Back button to return to the key.

1. Leaves with 3 leaflets, shrubs or small trees: go to 2

1. Leaves with more than 3 leaflets, may be large trees: go to 3

2. Leaves opposite and with no strong smell, fruit an inflated baglike capsule:
Staphylea trifolia (American bladdernut)

2. Leaves alternate and having a strong, fragrant smell, fruit a red drupe:
Rhus aromatica (fragrant sumac)

3. Leaves pinnately compound: go to 4

3 . Leaves palmately compound:
Aesculus flava (yellow buckeye)

4. Leaves alternate: go to 5

4. Leaves opposite: go to 15

5. Some or all leaves twice compound (bipinnate): go to 6

5. Leaves only once compound: go to 9

6. Trunks or branches with spines or prickles: go to 7

6. Trunks and branches without spines or prickles: go to 8

7. Enormous leaves that are always twice pinnate, leaf petioles usually with prickles, usually a small tree and often a single unbranched stem, prickles relatively short, fruit a purple-black drupe (one-seeded fleshy fruit) in a large terminal panicle:
Aralia spinosa (devil's walking-stick)

7. Leaves may be twice pinnate and once pinnate on the same tree, leaf petioles without prickles, can be a large tree, stout branched thorns often present, legume relatively thin and leathery, about 30 cm long:
Gleditsia triacanthos (honey locust)

8. Leaflets small and symmetric, fruit a relatively thin legume, non-native escaped species:
Albizia julibrissin (mimosa)

8. Leaflets large and asymmetric, fruit a large woody legume, not common in the wild, but often planted:
Gymnocladus dioicus (Kentucky coffeetree)

9. Lateral buds hidden under hollow petiole base, fruit a legume: go to 10

9. Lateral buds evident and axillary, fruit not a legume: go to 12

10. Leaflets small, about 3 cm long, elliptical, twigs may have visible spines or prickles: go to 11

10. Leaflets large, about 5 to 10 cm long, leaflets alternate on rachis and ovate, twigs without visible spines or prickles, bark light gray and smooth:
Cladrastis kentukea (yellow-wood)

11. Leaflet margin without teeth, node usually with a pair of spines, bark deeply furrowed, furrows often with orange tinge, legume small, about 5 cm:
Robinia pseudoacacia (black locust)

11. Leaflet margin with teeth, twigs usually with simple or branched thorns, legume about 30 cm long (leaves may be twice pinnate and once pinnate on the same tree):
Gleditsia triacanthos (honey locust)

12. Leaves with 5 or more pairs of lateral leaflets: go to 13

12. Leaves with mostly fewer than 4 pairs of lateral leaflets: go to key of hickories

13. Sap milky, fruit a red or brown berrylike fruit, a small tree or bush: go to key of sumacs

13. Sap not milky, fruit winged or a nut and not berrylike, may be a large tree: go to 14

14. Terminal leaflet present, fruit a samara, bark light gray and thin with distinctive pattern, leaflets with glands at base, leaves somewhat malodorous:
Ailanthus altissima (tree of heaven)

14. Terminal leaflet often absent, fruit a nut, bark dark with prominent V-shaped furrow, pith of small twigs chambered:
Juglans nigra (black walnut)

15. Leaflets 3-5, twigs green, fruit a double samara:
Acer negundo (box elder)

15. Leaflets 7-11, twigs not green, fruit a single samara: go to 16

16. Bark prominently diamond patterned, diamonds 3 to 5 cm long, twigs not angled or winged near tip:
Fraxinus americana (white ash)

16. Bark divided into plate-like scales, twigs 4-angled to 4-winged most obviously near tips:
Fraxinus quadrangulata (blue ash)

Things You Need to Know Before You Can Save a Dying Tree

  • Before you can embark on the quest to save a your tree, it is vital that you identify identify the signs of a dying tree.
  • Consider as well, that not all people are able to differentiate a sick tree from a dead tree. It is often assumed that, in both cases, the tree will look lifeless, dried up, and without any traces of green foliage.
    So, before you go on and invest your time and resources in reviving a tree, it is important to determine whether you can still save the dying tree or it is already too late.

A dying tree may have the following signs:

  • Sparse to Absent Leaves. There is a difference between trees that lose leaves during autumn and trees that lose leaves because of sickness. Often, dying trees have less foliage than healthy trees. You'll find foliage on a couple of branches while most of the branches will be bare.
  • Dried Up Wood. Extreme dryness of wood is another sign that a tree is dying. The branches of a dying tree often look lifeless, brittle, and can easily crack when you apply pressure. Unlike the branches of healthy trees, a dying tree's branches lack elasticity and do not bend.
  • Signs of Decay. Signs of decay like the growth of mushrooms or fungi on the surface of the tree are a telltale sign that the tree is dying. Trees often decay from the center towards its outer surface.
  • Cracks on Trunks. A dying tree often displays a vertical and continuous crack on their trunks.
  • Inclined or Bent Structure. When a tree's health deteriorates, its roots will lose its strength. Thus, it will not be able to hold itself upright.

Tree Hay: A forgotten fodder

A short history

The collection of tree leaves for feeding stock, usually from pollards, is now generally confined to poorer and least inhabited areas where subsistence farming and traditional herding still exists, but is believed to have been widespread across Europe until recent times. There is evidence that the practice pre-dates the making of hay from herb rich meadows and has been a farming practice for at least three millennia. The leaf fodder or “tree hay” was stored for feeding to stock during the winter, especially in mountain areas, but was also a vital source of animal feed in periods of drought especially in free draining soils. It was also an insurance against failure of the hay crop due to cold, wet summers. Trees with deeper root systems and mycorrhizal fungal associations can access moisture and nutrients and produce green leaves when other plants have dried up. The leaves may also be richer in nutrients because of this. Some tree leaves are known to have medicinal benefits and stock will self-medicate where they have the opportunity. As such there is a recent resurgence of interest in tree fodder, a valuable and untapped resource.

Producing Tree Hay

Tree hay is produced by the cutting or breaking of limbs and twigs of deciduous trees and shrubs in full leaf. The ideal tree to start pollarding is over the browse height i.e., over 2.3 m to 3.5 m where the main stem is never more than 19cms and preferably all sapwood. If the trunk is all sapwood then usually the exposed tissue will callus over completely with new growth from all sides around its circumference, thus making a fist shape which is called a 'bolling'. These bollings are incredibly strong with any subsequent growth being very secure and not liable to break off. The foliage can then be cut, dried, stored and fed to animals in the winter. As with meadow hay, tree hay should be cut at the optimum time, i.e. from the end of June and through July when the tree is in full leaf, for the maximum storage of minerals and nutrients in the leaves and twigs. These nutrients will then remain present with drying.

Whilst the methods of cutting and drying tree hay appear to be very varied across Europe, the basic principles remain the same as most branches vary in length from 60cms to 2m. One method was to stack and pack the cut braches into very tight bundles that were tied with twisted ropes of willow or hazel twigs. These were then either stored by drying outside hung above ground and then kept for winter fodder or stored green. In recent trials on the Knepp Castle Estate in southern England, bundles of tree hay, or 'faggots', have been stored fresh (green), horizontally under shelter in a tight stack. Many of these faggots, of different species of trees and shrubs, still had quite green leaves even after a season or two of storage, some even after 24 months.

Tree hay species

It appears that across the temperate regions of Europe the majority of tree and shrub species were used for fodder, people literally used what was available. In more recent times with the arrival of meadow hay, tree hay became especially important as insurance against poor growing seasons for hay making. However, if available, ash (Fraxinus excelsior) and elm (Ulmus minor) (before its demise) appear to have been the preferred tree species with holly (Ilex aquifolium) and ivy (Hedera helix) generally cut in severe winters or again after a poor growing season for hay and grazing. Today ash regrowth can be more susceptible to Chalara after cutting, whilst the regular re-cutting of surviving elm can keep its bark thickness to a minimum and thus useless to the Bark Beetle.

As our knowledge of plant communities and their interactions with associated essential micro-organisms increases, it is not unreasonable to expect that trees may also have different mychorrhizal partnerships. These complex relationships could supply trees and shrubs with a range of nutrients and minerals which may be beneficial when given to animals. Green islands can be found on the leaves of many species of tree as they die back in the autumn. These islands occur when minerals and nutrients are withheld by pathogens in the leaf tissue, and cattle appear to actively seek out and eat these leaves. As with herb rich meadows, certain trees are known to have natural beneficial medicinal properties useful for animals. Sadly in modern animal husbandry this is no longer common knowledge.

Can tree hay play a role in farming today?

To some people, cutting trees and pollarding to produce products such as tree hay will be seen as labour intensive with high cost and low value for productivity. However to others it can be seen as continuing an age old part of our cultural and landscape heritage. The natural medicinal properties of tree fodder will appeal to many, and there may be potential for using this fodder to reduce the use (and cost) of manmade pharmaceutical products. Considering the differing natural minerals, nutrients and trace elements the fodder contains there is certainly a very persuasive argument for the re-incorporation of tree hay into our farming systems, especially for the ‘high end’ of the animal food market. Not forgetting that tree hay could again play a role as winter food and extra insurance against failure and poor harvests of meadow hay in bad summers.

Ted Green MBE is passionate about ancient trees. He is a Founder President of the Ancient Tree Forum and Conservation Consultant to the Crown Estate Windsor. Ted is a pioneer of the theory that ancient trees were once 'working trees' and argues that they are gene banks and reservoirs of disease and pest resistance in a similiar fashion to old races of our commercial crops.

Editor’s notes

For more information about the role of trees in livestock systems see the following resources:

Uses of Tree Bark

There are many commercial uses for bark, and it is often stripped away from the heartwood to be processed. The dead outer bark can be used to make shingles and siding. The outer bark is also known as cork, and can be ground to make cork products like corkboard, cork flooring, and even specialty items like yoga mats. Throughout history, bark has been used to make everything from boats to shingles, as its waterproof nature remains until it disintegrates. Historically, the inner bark has even been used to create flour and make breads out of, though the nutritional capacity pales in comparison to normal cereals.

Some species of plants also accrue peculiar substances in their bark which are good for making spices, sunblock and insect repellent. The inner bark is an important commercial resource for resins, tannins, and even the precursors to products such as latex gloves. In agriculture, there is a technique in which the bark is stripped below ripening fruit. This allows the sugars to remain concentrated in the fruit, and gives a better harvest. This technique is known as girding, and is sometimes used to produce extraordinarily sized fruit. If a branch is girdled, and all but one fruit on that branch is picked, the plant will put all of the sugars and metabolites from the leaves on that branch into the one remaining fruit.

1. Which of the following layers is NOT considered bark?
A. Vascular cambium
B. Secondary Phloem
C. Rhytidome

2. Why is it not a good idea to strip all the bark off a tree?
A. The tree will dry out
B. The tree will grow too fast
C. The tree’s fruit will be too sweet

3. Which of the following is a possible use for bark?
A. Water storage container
B. Filter
C. Source of living tree cells

Watch the video: Άνοιγμα ρίζα ελιας (July 2022).


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