Root Girdling: A Tree Killer
July 7, 2014
There are a lot of reasons urban trees can go into decline and need to be removed. One problem we see over and over again is called “girdling”. This destructive condition is often completely avoidable if the root zone is inspected at planting time and the tree is properly planted.
Here is a Chinese pistache tree we were called upon to remove from a customer’s landscape. As you can see, the tree toppled over completely right from the base of the trunk. The thing is, the canopy of the tree looked healthy and normal. To the untrained eye, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong with this tree! Until it fell over, that is.
However, if one had taken a closer look at the base of the trunk, they would have discovered that the tree was being girdled, or strangled really, by old twine that had been left on the rootball of the tree at planting time. Often, balled and burlaped trees have either metal or other synthetic twine around the base of the trunk to keep the burlap in place. This be removed at the time of planting or it can girdle the tree as it grows. What a shame that performing such a simple task at planting time could have saved the life of this tree.
Physiological girdling can also result from the build-up of soil around the base of the tree from fill, the initial planted depth being too deep, or even overly dense ground cover planting, such as Asian Jasmine, planted at the base of a tree.
Girdling is also a condition you can avoid by having occasional basework performed on your established trees. When we perform basework, we inspect the area around the base of the tree to identify any problems. We will carefully remove any existing metal or twine leftover from improper planting, any grondcover that may be impeding proper trunk growth and air-spade excess soil away from the trunk.
If caught in time, girdling issues can be resolved. Unfortunately in this case, the valued tree is a goner. Don’t wait until you lose your tree…have a certified arborist inspect it for any issue related to girdling before it’s too late.
Posted: July 7, 2014