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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (September 23, 2015) – Wednesday is the first day of fall, and the leaves are already starting to change colors in some areas.

But one expert says, leaves changing color too early could be a sign that a tree is unhealthy.

If they can’t fight off insects and diseases that may attack, trees could have trouble in the brutally cold winter months as well.

Experts say, if a few limbs show early fall color, this could signal weakness in just those limbs.

But, more commonly, the entire tree is affected, signaling root-related stress with the symptoms showing above-ground.

What happens is, as a leaf breaks down, the green color chemicals are recycled and leave behind chemicals that make the other colors.

Color variations are due to a number of factors, like rainfall, sunlight, temperature, and humidity.

One Board Certified Master Arborist said it’s important to know how to tell a sick tree from one that’s just changing early.

“When I’m looking at a tree that might be changing color early and I want to find out what’s going on, the first thing I do is look at where the tree meets the ground – does it flare out substantially like it ought to? Are there any signs of mushroom evidence or decay?” said Jeff Hagfors, a board certified master arborist with Ping’s Tree Service. “Then I look at the branch twigs and leaves to see if I can find something that might indicate an insect infestation.”

For more on symptoms, or how to pick the appropriate trees for your home, talk to a professional arborist.

Click here to contact the Tree Care Industry Association.