Got Trees? Got Spare Parts? Part 1: Below Ground


I can’t help to think about spare parts when I see a pile of roots next to a new structure or driveway. These particular trees must come with extra roots, or spare parts. I remember many times when I’ve disassembled an appliance, a tool, or toy and then reassemble it, only to find an excess of screws, nuts or bolts. What the heck are these for? Hey, spare parts!

A pile of pruned tree roots (spare parts?)

People that manage trees find roots to be menacing and sometimes, insignificant. I’ve observed multiple situations where pavement covers root zones or where workers have harshly cut offensive roots. Do trees produce all those extra roots just to be annoying? Yet many root-deficiient trees survive and remain standing. How can this be so?

New parking lot over root system causes decline of centuries old Quercus agrifolia (oops!)

Despite their seemingly disruptive character, roots are very important tree parts that often get a bad rap. Roots absorb water and minerals for the growth of the tree and keep it anchored in the soil; they are a tree’s lifeline. Trees and roots persistently work towards adapting to a diversity of challenging environments. Roots grow where there is oxygen and moisture. This may be contrary to a common thought that roots strive to disrupt the lives of people.

Fine roots absorb water and minerals and are necessary to sustain tree health

A tree’s ability to adapt is affected by its species, age, condition, surrounding environment, and care. The majority of tree problems are caused by deficient root systems often within poor soil conditions. Cutting a tree’s roots (got spare parts?) may be hazardous to its health and stability.

At least two years of adventitious root growth that sprouted after root pruning, help keep tree alive

New science in tree root systems is slowly being unearthed.  There are effective ways to manage root conflicts and work with trees in challenging situations. Consult with an arborist to learn how, and stay connected for next month’s Got Trees? Got Spare Parts? Part 2: Above Ground

Aerial roots on a Moreton Bay Fig in Balboa Park San Diego

How can I help you with your trees?

Treemendously Yours,

Bill Spiewak

Moreton Bay Fig in Allerton Gardens, Kauai
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