Visible symptoms in the foliage of trees are recorded to monitor the effects of abiotic and biotic stress. Difficulties are reported in diagnosing the origin of stress. The present paper discusses several diagnostic criteria which are usable in different species for a better determination of the stress factor type. A new diagnosis scheme to differentiate between classes of abiotic and biotic stress factors is supplied. Abiotic stress generates gradients of symptoms. The symptom specificity is determined by the degree of interaction between the stress factor and plant defense system. Symptoms caused by abiotic stress and natural autumnal senescence can be morphologically different or undistinguishable according to the stress and plant species. With biotic stress, the class of parasitic is generally recognizable on the basis of the visible symptoms. Structurally and physiologically based explanations of the symptom morphology are still missing for many stress factors.