I have a silver birch tree in my garden - two years ago we had it cut back by someone who possibly didn't know as much about managing trees as he thought. He cut quite a lot off in November of 2016 and last year (2017) almost no growth at all occurred - two "sprays" of very thin branches came out in two separate places and then died.

This year, at time of writing (May 2018) there is no live growth visible anywhere on the tree.

We don't know how old it is, as we moved into the house 4 years ago.

Is it dormant? Or is it dead? It's a lovely tree so I am reluctant to remove it if there's any chance that it might still be alive. Is there any way I can check that it is still alive or maybe even help it out a bit if there may still be life deep inside it?

We're in the UK, in the South if that helps.

Here is the photo: enter image description here

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    Can you add a photo of the tree please
    – Bamboo
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 9:12
  • @bamboo Unfortunately I am at work at the moment, but I will add a photograph this evening. Commented May 16, 2018 at 9:20
  • @Bamboo photo added Commented May 16, 2018 at 19:37
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    Birch trees are short lived and fraught with disease. Why this tree had to suffer at the hands of someone ignorant about trees and pruning is just sad. But, it might have had disease and insects that would harm or hamper the growth of another birch. This corner is conjuring up idea...too sharp, too small. Not a fun space at the moment. What have you got growing there? There are ways to visually 'fix' that spot...what tree are you thinking about?
    – stormy
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 8:21
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    One suggestion on replacement, if you can find it in the UK - an amelanchier (serviceberry). Mature height is typically about 6 m and width maybe 4 m. There are smaller varieties. It has nice smooth silver bark, somewhat like a beech, and spring flowers (the fruits are eaten by birds, but can also be eaten by humans). You'd have to make sure that it can live in your soil and moisture conditions, though.
    – Jurp
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 11:06

1 Answer 1


It looks as if it's completely dead I'm afraid - the bark looks very cracked and dry everywhere. Quite why its died I'm not sure, but possibly some infection entered the tree from the pruning, or something's got at the roots. These are not long lived trees anyway, average lifespan is 40/60 years, sometimes up to 80 years, so if it was much bigger prior to pruning, it might just have been old. Keep an eye on it if you're not removing it immediately, just to make sure it remains safe and stable in the ground - test it by pushing it to see if it moves. If you want to replant another tree, best to have it cut down and the roots bored out, or you'll find it difficult to plant something else in that spot.

  • The bark was like that while it was alive, but having no new growth at all this year very much makes me think it's dead. I've been checking it's stability regularly and it's currently extremely stable - it doesn't move at all! When we do replace it we will choose something that won't grow as large. It had already been pruned/pollarded some years before we acquired it and it's definitely too big for that location. Commented May 17, 2018 at 7:42

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