Trees will have difficulty surviving without correct planting, proper maintenance, and early identification of health issues such as diseases and pests. By learning and understanding fallacies and facts about tree roots, you can grow a healthier, happier tree.
Fallacy 1: Single tap roots are found on all trees.
Most trees have tap roots during the seedling stage that eventually turn into water-seeking lateral and feeder roots.
Seedlings planted in deep, well-drained soil grow roots directly below the trunk of the tree. These roots below the trunk are commonly mistaken for tap roots. This misconception happens since people are familiar with vegetable tap roots which grow below the seedling.
However, if the seedling is planted in shallow soil, deep roots are rarely developed. Instead, trees develop feeder root mats due to the lack of soil depth.
Fallacy 2: Canopy dieback occurs on the same side of damaged roots.
Oftentimes canopy dieback occurs on the same side of damaged roots but should not always be assumed. For instance, oaks and mahogany trees have root systems that supply the same side of the tree with nutrients and water. This means oaks and mahogany trees will experience dieback on the same side as the damaged roots.
Maple trees on the other hand don’t always show canopy dieback on the same side as the damaged root. This makes maples unpredictable because branch death could occur anywhere on the tree without knowing where the root damage is.
Fallacy 3: The tree’s root system underground is a mirror image of the trunk and branches above ground.
In fact, most of the tree’s roots can be found in the upper 24 inches of soil for trees growing in the upper Midwest and often extend two to three times in width than the above-ground part of the tree. While the crown of a tree is upright and spreading, the root system of a tree is shaped more like a dinner plate than the other half of the dumbbell shape above-ground portion.
Fallacy 4: The deeper the roots, the more water and nutrients the tree gets.
At times, deeper roots need to search for water and nutrients, however, the majority of the roots reside in the top few inches of soil which primarily supply the tree with water and nutrients. The most delicate roots are the tree’s fine roots which are responsible for most of the water and nutrient uptake. These fine roots tend to be found in the top layers of the soil and are most critical to the life of the tree.
The roots within the upper layers of the soil are most susceptible to injury from compaction and drying out. If the tree loses these critical water-absorbing roots, the tree can then become susceptible to other complications that can lead to the death of the tree.
If you need help with your tree after reading the facts about tree roots, please contact our team of ISA Certified Arborists. We will be more than willing to come to your property for a tree consultation.