Why does your tree have leafless twigs?

Have you noticed that your tree doesn’t have any leaves on top? Leafless twigs are not only unsightly in your lawn but could also be a sign of trouble. It’s common in all kinds of trees including maple, ash, and birch.

Why it happens?

There are two common reasons for the leaves to drop especially on the top of the tree:

  • Girdling roots which will choke the tree around the trunk preventing water flow to the top. You may notice the leaves turn color in early fall as well as tangled roots on the trees. The most common type of tree to get these girdling roots is maple.
  • Verticillium wilt is a soil fungus that can also cause some parts of the tree to stop sprouting leaves. It’s also common in maple trees but other species such as elm and ash can be affected.

What next?

Why does your tree have leafless twigs


The type of solution for this issue will depend on the underlying cause. If the top of the tree doesn’t have leaves because of the girdling roots, we recommend pruning which needs to be done by an expert. DIY pruning is not recommended because you may end up removing an essential root and causing more harm than good. Call a certified tree removal expert to perform this job.


If the tree has a fungus that is causing this issue, it’s best to remove it so that it doesn’t spread. While you may consider applying fungicides or pruning, know that these are temporary solutions that don’t deal with tree stress effectively. It’s very important to understand the maintenance demands of a stressed tree and then decide if removal is a better solution. Sometimes leaving the trees in your compound can cause the spread of the fungus that puts your entire household at risk.

Al Miley & Associates – expert Toronto arborist.

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