Squaring Girdled Roots

Girdling roots can be a serious problem for a young tree— and the signs might be hard to see until it’s too late.

 This tree has girdling roots visible at the base of the trunk.

This tree has girdling roots visible at the base of the trunk.

Girdling happens when something, usually the tree’s roots, are wrapped tightly around the truck or stem of the tree. This can cut off the tree’s circulation. Xylem, which carries water and minerals from the roots to the rest of the tree, cannot make its way past the base of the trunk. Phloem, which moves nutrients from the leaves through the tree , is impeded. Girdling can also compress a tree’s trunk and weaken it. Trees with girdling roots that go untreated will suffer a slow decline in health, and can die prematurely.

Girdling roots can occur when trees are improperly planted or maintained. But they can also be caused by a tree’s own genetics. A tree with girdling roots may display several symptoms. These include: scorch, early fall color or leaf drop, abnormally small leaves, little or no tapering out of the trunk where it enters the ground, excessive leaning, and large dead leafless branches.

Roots usually begin to wrap around the truck under the soil and so can be difficult to detect until significant damage has occurred. However, girdling roots are not a death sentence for a tree. Early detection and proper treatment can save the life of what might otherwise be a condemned tree. If the stability of the tree has not been compromised it is often possible to remove the offending root. This is beneficial to the tree, which gets a new lease on life, but also eliminates the serious safety hazard of a structurally unsound tree that looks outwardly stable.

If you suspect one of your trees is suffering from girdling roots, get in touch with Kaleidoscope Inc. Our team of certified professional horticulturists can diagnose tree ailments and will work with you to create a solution that fixes the problem while preserving the character of your property. Contact us today!