The Underground Tree
Written by: Keith Glaznap, ISA Certified Arborist WI-0678A
Would you believe that the largest living organism on earth might be a tree? Would you guess a Redwood or a Giant Sequoia? If so, these would be great guesses, though there is a group of scientists who believe that the largest living organism on earth is an aspen tree! Well, technically it’s an aspen “colony” in Colorado comprised of millions of genetically identical trees all produced from one ever-expanding root system.
It’s funny how we are always thinking about trees based on their above ground characteristics, when in reality, at least 1/3 of their biomass can be found just under the surface of the soil in the form of roots. A single tree’s root system will generally stretch horizontally at least as far as the tree is tall and can even grow double that distance if soil conditions are conducive. Despite this, the root system is often a tree’s most overlooked organ.
Many tree problems begin underground. The soils in our yards are frequently compacted, degraded, and/or are lacking the microorganisms that trees need to be healthy and efficient. Construction activity too close to a tree, excessive water, scarcity of water, and the presence of root damaging fungi are other common factors that further hinder the root systems of our “yard” trees.
What can we do to help manage stress, improve root development, and improve our tree’s natural resistance to attack by insects and diseases?
- The most important thing to consider would be the soil conditions around your tree. Soil conditions can be improved most efficiently by removing sod layers, tilling soil with air to avoid damaging root tissue, adding compost, and mulching. Whether your favorite tree looks healthy or stressed, I consider this process to be more important than anything else that you can do for your tree. We now offer a service titled “Root Zone Enhancement” which addresses all these things, and it is generally needed only once for any given tree in its lifetime.
- The second most important thing to consider is whether it makes sense to also address the above issues supplementally. We do offer a newer treatment titled “Root Biostimulant with Systemic Fungicide”, which contains organic components, to help stimulate fine root development, suppress damaging soil fungi, and bolster a tree’s natural defenses. This treatment would be most beneficial for your tree when applied as a yearly supplement.
If you would like more information about these treatments or you would like to have your trees assessed for soil or root related stress, contact your Wachtel Tree Science arborist today and schedule an appointment.