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Tree Talk - Metropolitan Forestry Services

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May 16, 2016

Girdling Roots EXPOSED – Why are you choking your tree?

Girdling roots are a serious problem for our landscape trees and we predict they will be a major cause for tree decline in the next ten years.  Girdling roots are roots that circle around the trunk of the tree, choking off the vascular system.  This is somewhat similar to a pot bound house plant or container grown tree that has grown in the pot for too long.  Girdling roots usually occur beneath the soil, so detection can be difficult.  The problem is widely misdiagnosed, and many amateurs treat the symptoms rather than the real problem.

Symptoms of girdling roots are:

  • No natural root flare.
  • Basal decay.
  • Crown decline- small leaves, premature leaf coloration, leaf drop, and branch dieback.
  • Increased borer activity and other insect and disease problems.

Girdling roots are caused by:

  • Improper planting- too deep, not preparing planting hole properly.
  • Volcano mulching- roots grow into mulch piled around the trunk instead of the surrounding soil.
  • Heavy clay soil, waterlogged soils.
  • Improper watering- sprinkler systems.

Trees that have a high probability of girdling roots are: Norway Maples, Sugar Maples, Red Maples, Sweetgums, Lindens, and White Pines.  If girdling roots are diagnosed early some relief is possible.  The trunk can be excavated; girdling roots located, and cut off.  Follow up is important, as they may reform; this is best done during the dormant season. Tree should be fertilized to help compensate for the loss of the root and to help speed up callousing.Photo336

Volcano Mulching
The wrong way to mulch!


Girdling root
This root is growing around the trunk

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Our goal is to provide you with the best possible service. If you are not satisfied with any treatment or completed job, we will resolve the situation to your satisfaction. We want to do our utmost to ensure your trees and shrubs are always 'green and growing'.