What's A Zombie Tree And Do You Have One In Your Yard?

Unless you enjoy a good scare, you're probably grateful we don't have zombies prowling the streets at night. We do, however, have zombies planted not so firmly in the ground. Trees can look alive, but it's what's on the inside that counts. If a tree is dying from the inside out, it's considered a zombie tree, and it's actually quite dangerous. Zombie trees can be identified by pests, diseases, and damage.

Zombie trees may sound harmless, but they can cause a lot of problems in urban and suburban areas. These trees can fall down at any time, especially during storms with heavy gusts of wind. If trees fall into your yard, they could hit your property and hurt you or your loved ones. It may seem unlikely to happen, but sometimes, the tree can fall even without inclement weather. It only takes one false move for these zombie trees to arise and attack.

How to identify the living dead

Zombie trees range from dying to completely dead. Unless it's devoid of all leaves, you may not realize a zombie tree is on its way out. Many of these trees start out dying on the inside, often caused by diseases or major pest problems. The inside of the tree can rot until it's hollow, so you'll only see it if it reaches the outside of the tree. Visual signs of zombie trees may include discolored or dropping leaves, dying branches, and increased wildlife presence like woodpeckers or fungi. Much like illnesses in humans, these symptoms can mean a lot of things, so learning how to identify a diseased tree versus a zombie tree will help.

Aside from visual signs, pay attention to environmental signs. The Sierra Nevada mountain range has a lot of zombie trees, often called ghost forests, due to a change in climate. Years of warmer temperatures and construction led to more massive wildfires that greatly affected the local climate, causing many pine and fir trees to die because they couldn't adapt to the change fast enough. Dangerous weather may also be responsible for the hordes of zombie trees. Damage caused by harsh winds can cause a tree to become zombified, especially if they're bent or broken by the weather. If you're wondering whether or not a tree is a zombie, consider weather patterns and major weather events over the past few decades to determine if the environment is a factor.

What to do about a zombie tree

If you see symptoms like mushrooms growing on your tree or dying limbs, contact a trusted arborist. Some trees can be saved if you catch them early enough and get them the right treatment. Arborists will know if a tree can be saved or not and if it will be a threat to your home. Since zombie trees can essentially fall at any given moment, it's better to remove them sooner rather than later. An unsuspected windy day or bad weather could result in a catastrophe.

Many zombie trees aren't identified until it's too late. Trees broken in tornados and hurricanes are often zombie trees; they broke easily because they were either hollow inside, had a rotten trunk, or were very brittle. Inspect your trees periodically to ensure they're healthy and not joining the walking dead. Keep a tree healthy by providing water during dry spells and fertilizing as needed. Prune it every now and then to keep the airflow going and prevent diseases and pests in an overcrowded canopy.