Get to Know Your Roots!
Girdling Root

Tree roots are more impressive than many people know. They are also unbelievably vital to tree health. Roots function to stabilize the tree, as well as search for, absorb, and store nutrients. Tree roots in an urban setting face many more challenges than those in the wild. Common problems we see include strangulation, soil compaction, and property damage. It is very important to know that roots will grow in any direction necessary to find what they need.

Trees can be strangled by their own roots. We see this very often with trees that have been planted too deep. If the root flare is buried by soil, we know that it was improperly planted. The roots on these trees will actually grow upward to get to the oxygen they desire. Upon doing so, the roots may stay closer to the trunk, may cross over the trunk, and eventually circle the trunk. These misguided roots are what we refer to as “girdling roots.” As they grow larger in diameter, the roots can effectively strangle the tree by diminishing and eventually stopping the flow of nutrients throughout. At Selner Tree & Shrub Care, we offer a girdling root program to mitigate the chances for your tree’s early demise. For a more proactive approach, we do tree planting as well.

A common misconception is that tree roots go deep into the soil. In reality, the roots only occupy the first two feet of the ground. However, roots spread out very far in order to collect nutrients and stabilize the tree. Their reach is beyond the drip line of the crown, and may sometimes stretch as far as five times the height of the tree. Therefore, protecting the ground all around trees is very important. Construction damage is seen far too often. Air pockets in the soil are necessary for roots, and may be compacted by construction. Roots may also be torn or cut by machinery. Beautiful old trees and new plantings may become very stressed and may not be able to survive these changes. When planning a construction project on your property, a consultation with an ISA-certified arborist is always a good idea. If it is too late for that, Selner Tree & Shrub Care does offer another root program for soil aeration. We also have a chemical treatment that temporarily inhibits the growth of the crown to allow the roots to catch up.

Homeowners regularly blame tree roots for damaging things like house foundations. While they may not help the issue, they are certainly not the cause. Roots will grow in any matter to follow nutrients. They may detect a small crack in a wall, believe it to be an air pocket, and continue to grow into it. Little does the tree know, it is actually your basement. The same goes for water pipes. If the root finds a small hole in a pipe, it may grow into it in search of air and water. As the roots grow larger, you may begin to notice the issue. Please don’t blame the tree! The best way to prevent this is to plant trees at least ten feet from your house: the farther the better.

~Skye Kocha