Celebrating Over 45 Years of Exceeding Customer Expectations!
  • Jeanne Hafner
  • No Comments
Elm Tree Died from Girdling Roots and Cracked Trunk

Girdling Roots and a Cracked Trunk: 1 Tree, 2 Problems

Leaning Elm Tree from Cracked Girdling Roots
Leaning Elm Tree from Cracked Girdling Roots

It can be incredibly frustrating to learn that an important tree on your property is dying, especially when you don’t see the signs until it is too late. One Giroud customer called on Arborist, Mike Chenail, to help them understand what was causing their American Elm to suddenly start leaning at a 7-degree angle. When Mike took a closer look at the tree, he discovered that the tree was in danger of falling for not one, but two, huge reasons- girdling roots and a cracked trunk!

To the untrained eye, tree problems can go unnoticed for quite a while before they rear their ugly heads or, even worse, disaster strikes. Thankfully, in this situation, ISA Certified Giroud Arborist, Mike Chenail caught it before the tall Elm crashed down in the yard, potentially causing serious damage.

Girdling Roots on American Elm Tree
Girdling Roots on American Elm Tree

Bad Luck Times Two

When he arrived, Mike saw right away that the tree had a terrible root structure. Girdling roots had slowly strangled the tree over time. One large girdling root was even wrapped around the trunk in such a way that it was holding the tree upright! The tension pushing on the root from the growing tree caused it to snap suddenly, and the tree tilted to an unsteady leaning position!

Upon closer inspection, Mike discovered a secondary life-threatening problem in the Elm Tree. “Because of the girdling roots, the Elm lacked a root system that could support itself,” explains Mike. “However, had it not uprooted today, it was definitely going to split apart due to a large crack that developed between the two equal-size leaders. This one Elm Tree was destined to fail in two ways!”

Girdling Roots

Girdling roots are a big problem for trees, but they can be prevented. New, young trees that are planted either too deep or too shallow can develop poor root structures. Girdling roots can also form when a tree is volcano mulched, meaning the mulch is piled high up on the trunk of the tree. When mulching, you should always leave at least a 1” space between the tree trunk and the mulch. If mulch is piled too close to the trunk, the roots will grow up and around the base of the tree, strangling it over time.

Cracked trunk on American Elm from Two Leaders
Cracked Trunk on American Elm from Two Leaders

Cracked Trunks and Cabling

Some trees will grow with two competing leaders, and if that problem is not taken care of, the tree is destined to snap apart from the weight of both trunks pilling in opposite directions. If caught early enough, an ISA Certified Arborist may recommend pruning to establish a main leader. Another common solution to this problem is to cable the two leaders to one other in order to equally distribute the weight.

Inspections for Prevention

In the end, because of the girdling roots and cracked trunk, this beautiful American Elm tree had to be removed for safety. The homeowners will be sad to see it go, but thankful that it never fell on the house, a car, or even on passerby below! This story is a great lesson in hiring an ISA Certified Arborist to routinely check all the trees on your property for preventative maintenance.

You go to the dentist twice a year to clean your teeth. You get annual checkups at your doctor. The trees on your property are living and growing every day all year long! Why not have them regularly inspected by an ISA Certified Giroud Arborist? You could avoid disaster and keep your property safe. Inspections are always FREE! Call 215-682-7704.

Author: Jeanne Hafner

Leave a Reply