Close this search box.
Close this search box.

Getting to the Root of it

Getting to the Root of Tree Problems – Girdling Roots

Girdling roots are a serious and often misdiagnosed problem in urban trees. When roots cross over or wrap around tree trunks, it limits nutrient and water uptake which can adversely impact the tree. This strangling effect on trunks also restricts the flow of photosynthates downwards resulting in the decline and death of foliage. If not identified and removed, girdling roots will slowly choke the life out of a tree.

Some common causes of girdling roots include poor quality nursery stock, soil added in the nursery that can hide circling roots, and excess soil above the root collar after planting.

Signs of Girdling Roots

  • Absence of a well-defined trunk flare (if the trunk disappears into the soil like a cliff into a lake, it indicates excess soil above the root collar)
  • Growth of small surface roots around the base of the tree
  • Tree instability

Identifying and Removing Girdling Roots

Air Excavation is performed using an air spade to examine tree root systems quickly with minimal damage to roots or underground utilities. Air excavation directs a controlled, high-pressure stream of air into the soil in order to displace it and expose a full view of the root collar. Problems with roots and soil often lead to plant failure. This powerful handheld device safely exposes root systems, allowing for more effective treatments and diagnoses than were available in the past. These tools are also important for developing more precise long term care plans. If girdling roots or other problems are detected, they can be dealt with immediately with proper root pruning. The excavated soil is simply replaced to the proper depth when the work is done.

There is nothing as fun and rewarding as finding and removing girdling roots. Taking trees off death row by removing roots that are slowly strangling them is arboriculture at its best!

About the Author

This article comes from Business Partner member SavATree’s Timely Tips 2021 Spring/Summer Residential newsletter. To learn more, visit SavATree at: https://www.savatree.com/tree-service-pa