If there is a dead tree in your yard or somewhere on your property, you are left with three options for dealing with it.

Standing Deadwood

Standing deadwood is any dead tree that is left in place instead of removed. The dead tree will provide a home for a multitude of birds, including songbirds and woodpeckers. It also provides a food source, particularly for woodpeckers and similar species that feed on the insects that are breaking down the deadwood. Other animals and wildlife may also live in the base of the tree or inside the trunk as it becomes hollow.

A dead tree isn't really an option on urban and suburban lots, but it is in more rural areas if it isn't near a structure or heavily trafficked location. It's best to have the lateral branches removed so only the trunk remains, as the lateral branches can pose a risk if they break off. The trunk may also need to be staked so it doesn't blow down too easily.

Nurse Log

A nurse log is deadwood that is no longer standing. It's left to lay on the ground to feed insects and the next succession of growth in the area. Insects and small animals eat the wood and burrow into it, moss and lichen cover the surface, and eventually, ferns, shrubs, or saplings take root in the decomposing wood. Some people opt to get rid of the log, but they keep the stump. This is called a nurse stump and it serves much the same purpose.

Much like standing deadwood, nurse logs are really only suitable for large properties when they won't be near the house. Part of the reason is that they can attract wood-boring insects, like termites, which you don't want near building structures. They may also attract animals like skunks, who will burrow under the log and nest, which you also may not want to occur near your home.

Full Removal

In most cases, especially in urban and suburban areas or when the tree is close to the home, full removal is the best option. A tree service will first cut off all the branches, leaving nothing but the bare trunk. These can be lowered down safely so damage risks are mitigated. They will then cut down the trunk. For tall trees, this may mean cutting them down in stages from the top down.

After the tree is removed, you can opt to have the stump removed or you can leave it in place to become a nurse stump or to use as a lawn ornament. Reasons for removing a stump are safety and ease of lawn care, and to prevent pests issues such as termites.

If you opt for removal, either full or partial, contact a tree removal service in your area.