Decay  - Decay is a process going from order to disorder.  Decaying is the active process.  Decayed is a result of the process.  Two types - Abiotic Decay; Rocks, Radioactive Materials, etc.  Biotic Decay: Microorganisms attack on trees, animals, etc.  With trees - Decay is the breakdown of cellulose.  Decayed wood is the product of the process.  Decaying is the kinetic state of the process.  Decay is a process where highly ordered substances become disordered.  As order goes to disorder, energy is released.  As disorder goes to order, energy is consumed.  If decay developed at will in trees, few infected trees would stand up.  Decay-causing fungi rarely grow where moisture and pH are high. 
(See "Water And Decay" and  “Tree Decay”)
    More on decay.  This word is so misused.  It is the change from a highly ordered state to an disordered state.  Entropy - as entropy enters any system.  We keep thinking decay only belongs to the living.  We have decayed non-living to.  In New Hampshire they have a type of material called decayed granite.  When it breaks down from its solid form it seams to crumble at your touch.  So its interesting - it follows the word damage in our small list of words to define our terms.  But decay is a process.  When we say decay process it is like a redundancy.  You are saying hot hot cold cold decay decay.  Decay is a process.  Decay is the active process.  Its actually going on.  Decayed wood is the result of it.  You have to have decayed granite, decayed wood, decayed this and decayed that.  Rocks decay, rots decay, materials that are radio active decay.  This is one term now we hear many times about materials decaying.  We have radio active decay.  Then in the biotic sense or the living sense we have microorganisms that attack trees, they transfer energy.  But in all of these cases we have some material, some substance whether its alive, dying or dead that has a border.  It’s arranged in such a sense that it can repeat.  As that order goes to disorder or goes down from the high order of arrangement to a lesser degrees of arrangement, then that material is decaying.  But decay is a process.  It’s a process of order going to disorder.  Think about that please.  And don’t misuse it.  Because, actually in this sense, if we get down to trees again, which we should be thinking about all the time here.  Discoloration is also a decay process.  That is redundant, but it is a type of decay because as wood becomes discolored it is changing.  It is being altered by the tree, its environment, microorganisms and who knows what else.  We know so little about these, but we keep discussing, as if we do know everything.  We have a bad habit in science and life.  As soon as we do not understand something we give it a name and the name implies we understand it.  Worse yet is when we start connecting the name with other words implying that there are different types of that processes.  For example we have heartwood, and then we have precautious heartwood we have wound heartwood.  All types of heartwood, wet heartwood, then we ask somebody what is heartwood and it’s “I don’t know”.  So be careful and think about these words.  If you cannot define your term do not use it.  But think about it please.

In a living tree, decay will be surrounded by a boundary, that yields bacteria and nonhymenomycetous fungi.

Decay is a state of movement from high order of a system to lower states of order.  Decay is the process.  Decaying is the active process.  Decayed is the result of the process.  Discolored wood stage one.  Decaying wood stage two.  Decaying wood to stage three.  Decayed to a hollow, stage four. Remember, decay is a process.  Decayed wood is the result of the process.

As branches die upward on the trunk, more decay develops upward on the tree.  Decay develops downward faster than upward from wounds and branch stubs.

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