Deadwood – To stay or go?
Feb 19, 2024

At Adelaide Hills Tree Services, we are often asked what should we do about deadwood in a tree.

While some people think that deadwood should always be removed for a variety of reasons including safety, aesthetics and the health of the tree, the answer is not always so simple. In fact, the best course of action often depends on the tree species, location, size, age as well as the characteristics of the deadwood itself.

In the Adelaide Hills and beyond, we have a diverse variety of trees in varying age classes; from the juvenile ornamental trees being planted throughout the many streets, gardens and subdivisions, to the exotics planted by early European settlers in the mid-1800s, and then to the veteran River Red Gums several hundred years old.


Let’s have a deeper look at the reasons why deadwood should be removed, managed or left alone:

  • Aesthetics – for many ornamental trees, particularly exotics, deadwood can be an eyesore. For this reason, some people prefer to remove all the deadwood from a tree to provide a greener, healthier looking tree.
  • Safety – large unstable deadwood in trees can be a safety risk if it were to fail. What you should do with the deadwood in this scenario all depends on the location of the tree, and the likelihood of failing deadwood impacting a person or property. If the tree is in a high traffic area, it would be wise to reduce or remove the deadwood.
  • Tree health – removing deadwood in younger trees allows the tree to occlude over the wound, reducing the likelihood of decay entering the tree’s main structure. Deadwood can be an avenue for disease to enter the tree, but trees also have a great ability to compartmentalise decay or disease to stop it spreading throughout the tree. Some tree species are far better at compartmentalising decay than others, so this should be taken into consideration when deciding the action that should be taken. Mature trees are also less likely to occlude over the wound, and a hollow may be formed.
  • Habitat – deadwood is so very important for our native fauna to create themselves a safe home. Deadwood often has hollows in it that are crucial for the survival of some of our critically endangered wildlife such as the Glossy Black Cockatoo that rely on hollows for breeding. In this instance, shortening the unstable deadwood until it becomes stable and safe while retaining the hollows in the tree is a great option. Deadwood can also be a cause that hollows are created in trees, so if you have a beautiful old River Red Gum, managing the deadwood may be more prudent than removing it completely. For a tree out in the paddock, with no targets around it, just leave the deadwood be and enjoy watching the wildlife that calls the tree home!

These are but some of the considerations that we at Adelaide Hills Tree Services think about, when determining the best approach to managing deadwood our client’s trees. Additonal thought needs to also be given to how deadwood is managed, once it has been removed. Don’t forget that hollows can be reinstalled into other trees creating habitat for the future or donated to wildlife rescue organisations for homes for injured fauna.

arborist in tree

If you need any advice on what you should do with the deadwood in your tree, Adelaide Hills Tree Services are here to help. We can assist you looking at the pros and cons of the different management options and help you decide on the best solution.