What Causes a Tree to Die on One Side?

what causes a tree to die on one side

What causes a tree to die on one side but look fine on the other? 

In this article, Tree Pros, Clarksville’s tree removal experts explain what causes this interesting phenomenon.

An Obvious Cause: Tree Diseases

Tree diseases like Verticillium Wilt can cause dieback on one side of the tree as they spread. In the case of something serious, like Verticillium Wilt, the disease destroys the tree’s vascular system, and the veins clog. Leaves along that branch can’t get nutrients, so they die, as does the limb. 

Other diseases, like Phytophthora Root Rot, have a similar effect on the root system, with the same results. However, acting early enough might save the tree. More importantly, an expert tree service can tell you whether the tree is a hazard

If there’s a chance the tree might come down during the next storm, speedy removal is crucial.

A Less Obvious Cause: Soil Compaction

The soil the tree grows in also makes a difference. This is why you might see one side of the tree look more vibrant when you plant it on a sidewalk. When people, machinery, or vehicles drive over the ground, they compress it, closing the air pockets. 

In this case, the tree can’t breathe properly or extend its roots to access enough water and nutrients. Thankfully, you can combat this by carefully aerating the soil. Either turn over the topsoil or punch holes into it, then try to keep people or vehicles from putting weight onto the area.

Other Potential Causes of Tree Death


When investigating what causes a tree to die on one side, lightning is surprisingly common. The strike vaporizes the sap in the veins, and this can kill that part of the tree. It’s also possible for the lightning to only affect certain parts and leave others alone. 

If lightning has struck, you should always call an arborist for a risk evaluation. They will remove dead branches and develop a supportive strategy for the tree’s recovery or removal.

Root Damage

It’s particularly dangerous when erosion exposes the roots, but many other things can harm these delicate systems. For example, any form of injury increases the risk of disease or pest infestation. That’s why pruning should fall to the experts.

A Stem-Girdling Root

While these roots look interesting around the trunk, the danger is that they will expand and slowly choke your tree. It’s important to remove these roots safely and carefully so as not to inflict more harm. 

Insect Damage

Insects cause dieback on one side of a tree by boring into the bark. They might also denude the tree by eating all of the leaves on one side. Staying vigilant is your best defense, so if you see signs of insect damage, call for expert help as soon as possible. 

Contact Our Tree Care Pros for Expert Advice Today! 

Now you know what causes a tree to die on one side, you might want to know more about dangerous trees. If you feel your tree qualifies, or need advice, be sure to call Tree Pros at (410) 771-1717!


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