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Does Your Tree Wear Spanx?

Of course not! But your tree could be still be suffering from a girdle that’s way too tight.

Girdles can be a death sentence for trees. Instead of growing out, girdling roots grow around the trunk. As the tree trunk gets fatter, the girdling roots tighten and restrict circulation through the cambium layer of the tree.

Now the trouble really begins. Water and nutrients can’t flow easily up from the roots to the canopy and the sugars manufactured in the leaves can’t reach the roots. Over time, the side of the tree with the girdling roots will begin to decline and eventually die.

Mike Chenail, Giroud Arborist, shows us how to spot girdling roots and what to do about them in his video of a young Norway Maple with roots wrapped around its trunk.

Please take a few minutes to check the trees you love for girdling roots. Grounds Maintenance Magazine gives us some great tips on how to check root systems in trees from the newly planted to well-established trees.

  1.  Planting a New Tree: Check the rootball. Look for any roots that are not radiating out from the trunk. Remove any roots that are growing across the trunk.
  2. Young Trees: Look for any growing across the trunk that can develop into girdling roots and remove them. Be careful not to damage the trunk or other roots.
  3. Larger trees: Step back and observe them from a distance.  Tree species that often have problems with girdling roots include Pines, Maples (excluding Silver Maple), Lindens and Magnolias.
  • Look for declining branches or uneven growth in the canopy of the tree. Closer inspection may show branches with reduced growth or smaller leaves on one side of the tree. If the pipeline were still intact, the branches and leaves would look more vigorous.
  • Observe the trunk. Just as we drew trees with a trunk flare when we were kids, there should be a flare radiating out from all sides of the trunk. Some species flare a lot, some not so much. If the trunk enters straight into the ground or if there is an indention in the trunk, something is blocking growth on that side of the tree.

You can remove smaller girdling roots using a chisel, pruners or saw. For larger girdling roots, please call us. Roots can grow very close and become embedded in the trunk. If removal is possible, we will do it carefully to protect the trunk and other roots from damage.

Author: Cindy Giroud

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