Do you have 'zombie trees' in your yard? Here's how to spot them

A Florida woman said she was lying in bed and rolled to safety just seconds before a 'zombie tree' crushed her home.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – An arborist is asking homeowners to look carefully at their trees after a so-called "zombie tree" crushed a Florida home this week.

FOX 35 Orlando reported that 89-year-old Katie Speed was sleeping in her Daytona Beach home when she awoke to the sounds of cracking outside. She rolled out of bed and onto the floor just seconds before the tree came crashing down.

Officials said the felled water oak was a "zombie tree." The term refers to trees that look alive on the outside, but are actually dead on the inside. 

Arborist Christopher Forrest told FOX 35 Orlando that even though a tree can appear healthy and sprouting green leaves, there could be decay happening inside. He said one way people can identify likely "zombie trees" is to look for cracks in the roots. He said those cracks appeared on the tree that fell onto Speed's home, and the decay can be confirmed now that the interior of the tree is exposed.


"As you can see, the outside of the tree, the roots, the root color here, you can see the decay coming down this way," Forrest said as he pointed at the tree. 

Forrest said that knowing what types of trees are in your yard is important. He said a water oak typically lives for about 30 years before it starts to decay.

A "zombie tree" can be safely removed if it is still upright, Forrest said.