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Kentucky Color: Girdling Root

By Billy Joe Fudge

Girdling roots on the surface seem to be fairly innocuous in nature. How could this little root crossing over that big old root be of any danger to the big root and the tree itself?

Similarly, the same question could be asked about a rubber band placed around your wrist. However, we know that a rubber band restricts blood flow and if left on the wrist for too long will cause the hand to die and is therefore far from innocuous.

Therefore if we want our trees to be healthy, girdling roots should be removed as soon as they are discovered. Removing them early will help to minimize injury to the tree which will cause part of the trunk and crown to die and will substantially shorten the tree's life.



During the spring and summer the big root you see here is constantly carrying water, nutrients and minerals to the base of the tree and then up through the tree's arteries and veins, so to speak, to the leafy crown. The leaves use them, carbon dioxide from the air and light from the sun through the miracle of photosynthesis to make oxygen and sugars. Then in the autumn these same arteries and veins bring the sugars down through the bark to be stored in the roots until late winter and spring, when the process will repeat itself.

Oh and by the way, although girdling roots can be present and do damage to about any tree, they are however, one of the major enemies of maples.


This story was posted on 2020-06-27 06:55:41
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Remove a girdling root: Step 1



2020-06-27 - Adair Co., KY - Photo by Billy Joe Fudge.
Identify the girdling root and grab your trusty Pulaski, grubbing hoe, axe, etc. in preparation for surgery.

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Remove a girdling root: Step 2



2020-06-27 - Adair Co., KY - Photo by Billy Joe Fudge.
Remove just enough soil to allow the development of a plan to remove the "rubber band", so to speak, without further damaging the root.

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Remove a girdling root: Step 3



2020-06-27 - Adair Co., KY - Photo by Billy Joe Fudge.
Cut one end of the girdling root, pull it away from the main root and cut the other end as well.

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Remove a girdling root: Step 4



2020-06-27 - Adair Co., KY - Photo by Billy Joe Fudge.
You have just successfully performed surgery which will enhance the health of your tree and will add years and maybe decades to it's life.

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