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Girdling Roots On A Maple Tree

 In Inexpensive Tree Care Blog

Girdling roots sounds like something one does to a tree rather than something the tree inflicts upon itself. It sounds almost benign — as if girdling roots were a task that we green thumbs performed on trees in the sunshiny springtime. Time to girdle the roots!

But make no mistake: Not only is it something that happens to a tree but it’s also something that can cause major damage. This blog post is focused on girdling roots on a maple tree and how one can ensure healthy and eternally vibrant growth.

First of all, what are girdling roots?

About Girdling Roots

Girdling roots are problems for many urban trees. It’s rare for a tree in an undisturbed, natural setting to develop this affliction.

The word girdling provides some insight into the phenomenon. When roots are girdling a maple tree (to use the subject at hand; maples are, in fact, especially susceptible to girdling roots), the roots themselves begin to grow and coil around the base of the tree. In other words, they form a sort of girdle around the tree’s trunk.

This condition can choke off water, nutrients, and sap flow to the tree. It can also flatten the tree’s sides. Worse, it strips the tree of life and vigor. Leaves are few and far between — or they’re sparse and wilted, often dropping too soon.

Plus, whole sections of the tree can die off if the problem is left untreated. Even trees that withstand the girdling process itself are often left more vulnerable to other environmental stressors, such as insects and disease.

Consider a vivid illustration from a piece published by the Arbor Day Foundation.

“Imagine wearing a belt around your waist that is being squeezed tighter and tighter,” writes certified arborist John Lang, “and you’ll get an idea of what girdling roots do to a tree.”

Diagnoses and Causes of Girdling Roots on a Maple Tree

It’s sometimes easy to spot this root problem. Girdling or circling happens mostly underground. However, trees with circling root systems can also have trunks that disappear straight into the earth with the girdling roots emerging all around it, wrapping the trunk in a sort of death embrace.

With forest trees, on the other hand, roots flare away from the base, with whole roots growing outward from the trunk rather than around it.

Girdling Roots: Causes

So what causes it? Why are urban trees much more likely to get a bad case of the girdling roots? It has to do with how we handle trees and how they are (improperly) planted.

Most of the time, a tree acquires this condition due to improper planting — if, for example, the hole the tree is planted in is too small or if the soil is too compact around the planting hole. It can also happen if a tree is planted too deeply or too close to root obstructions, such as curbs or the foundations of buildings.

Roots may also girdle when a tree is left for too long at a nursery, especially if the container in which it’s placed is too small. If that’s the case, the roots may begin to girdle before the tree is even planted. Be sure to unfurl and extend those roots when planting trees in such a condition.

How To Protect Your Trees

So how can we stem girdling roots (no pun intended)? Avoid making the mistakes laid out above. Plant trees with their roots extended and away from obstructions.

And be sure to call Inexpensive Tree Care to take care of the problem for you. While the solutions are simple on paper, the actual work involved can be intense.

Fortunately, rectifying this situation by removing the girdling roots and replanting the tree is usually enough to provide a renewed growing trend in the tree.

Give us a call if you have any questions.

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