4 Myths and Facts About Tree Roots

There’s a certain science behind tree roots, and we’re here to let you in on some secrets. You may not think too much about your trees’ roots, but they tell a complex and interesting story that you should pay attention to. Many homeowners don’t truly understand roots, which leads to poor decisions when it comes to tree care. They may be out of sight, but they shouldn’t be out of mind!

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Trees can’t survive without proper planting, regular maintenance, and early identification of disease and pest infestation. By knowing the myths and facts about tree roots, it’s possible to grow happier, healthier trees. Here are four myths and facts to explore.

Myth #1: Single tap roots are included on all trees

During the seedling stage, most trees have tap roots that will eventually convert into water-seeking feeder and lateral roots. Seedlings that have been planted in well-drained, deep soil will extend roots right below the trunk, and those roots are often mistaken for tap roots. Because most people are familiar with vegetable tap roots growing underneath the seedling, that’s where this myth is perpetuated.

Truth is, if the seedling was planted in shallow soil, it’s uncommon for deep roots to develop. Those trees will instead develop feeder root mats because the soil is not deep enough to accommodate them.

Myth #2: Canopy dieback happens on the same side of roots that have been damaged

Canopy dieback is when there is a progressive death of twigs, branches and shoots from the tip of the tree downward. This dieback usually occurs on the same side of roots that have been damaged, but certainly not always. Take oak trees and mahogany trees, for instance, featuring  root systems supplying the same side of the tree with water and nutrients. These trees will thus go through dieback on the same side as the roots that have been damaged.

Then take maple trees as another example. They do not always display canopy dieback on the same side as damaged roots, making them fairly unpredictable. That’s due to the fact that dying branches can appear virtually anywhere on the tree and you wouldn’t necessarily know where exactly the root damage occurred.

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Myth #3: The underground root system is a mirror image of the tree above ground

Actually, most of a tree’s roots appear in the upper two feet of soil, extending two to three times the width of the above-ground portion. Even though the tree crown is spreading and upright, the root system looks more like a dinner plate than the dumbbell-shape portion above the ground. So the differences are quite sizable when you think about it.

Here a fun fact: Tree roots are covered in tiny hairs where fungi grows on them. This helps the roots draw water via osmosis, says Gardening Know How.

Once the water gets sucked into the roots, it enters a botanical pipeline in the inner bark which carries water up the tree. Trees build additional hollow “pipes” inside their trunks each year to better transport water and nutrients, which create those telltale “rings” you see inside a tree trunk when it’s been cut.

Myth #4: With deeper roots, trees get more water and nutrients

You would think this would be true, but not always so. Sometimes, deeper roots must search harder to obtain the necessary water and nutrients. Most of the roots are found in the top several inches of soil, and there is where the tree gets most of its water and nutrient supply. The tree’s fine roots are the most fragile, and they’re the ones that draw the most water and nutrients. These are located in the top soil layers and represent the most vital part of the tree’s life and sustenance.

The roots in the upper soil layers are also most at risk for getting dried out or injured  from compaction. If the tree does not have these water-absorbing roots, the tree can fall victim to disease and other complications and eventually die.

Contact Bare Roots Tree Solutions

We hope these myths and facts cleared up some things for you. For more tree root care tips and to obtain your free quote on tree removal or maintenance, call our certified arborists at 972-779-9020.

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