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'Rooting' for Healthy Roots!

RUN!!! It's a mutant tree creature!

Actually, it's just a really bad case of stem-girdling roots.

So what the heck are girdling roots?

Stem-girdling roots are roots that have wrapped around the main trunk or buttress roots and - you guessed it - girdled them.

What do girdling roots mean for the long-term health of your tree? Nothing good, unfortunately! As they grow larger, so does the main trunk and/or buttress roots. The girdling roots can cut off the vascular flow of water and nutrients and shorten the life of a tree. In extreme cases, they can even cause the entire tree to topple.

What causes girdling roots? Most commonly, I would say containers. When trees are left in containers (pots) for too long in the nursery, the roots keep growing with nowhere to go but around and around and...well, you get it. This can happen with any restricted planting area if it's too small for the amount of roots it holds.

If the problem didn't start in the nursery, incorrect planting procedure or depth can cause these bad boys to occur as well.

How common are girdling roots? Very common, actually. I would say at least half of the trees I look at have anywhere from a minor to major girdling root problem, with many of them being maples.

How do you know if your tree has girdling roots? Though you can't always tell at the surface level, there are some telltale signs that we arborists look for. These could include incorrect planting depth, lack of trunk flare at the base of the tree, buckling or other abnormalities at the base, and, of course, obvious girdling roots at the surface level.

What can be done about girdling roots? Sometimes, nothing can be done. The roots may be too large to deal with or have grafted onto good tissue. In many cases though, we start with excavating the area right around the base of the tree (aka the root crown). We may remove smaller girdling roots or portions of larger ones to relieve some of the pressure on the vascular tissue. Typically we will pair this with fertilization to help alleviate any short-term stress caused by the removal of woody tissue. This is an easy course of action that can add years of life to your beloved tree!

To dig into more information on stem-girdling roots, click here:

Loggin' off for now,

Sarah Nelson

ISA Certified Arborist #IN-3457A

Arborcare, Inc.


Q: What is the pine tree's favorite radio station?

A: Anything that plays the poplar hits!

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