Getting to the Root of the Problem

I pulled off the road a couple of evenings ago to proofread something for my wife. I pulled into a bank parking lot after hours, and this is what I saw. Because so many people ask me about trees that look just about like this, I figured this would be a good time to address a couple of issues.


1. I’m not entirely sure what could have caused that one root of this live oak to be as straight as a guy wire, but it’s really unusual. It almost looks like someone wrapped it intentionally around the trunk, then pulled it taut in the process.

That one odd root needs to be removed, and it needs to come off as soon as possible. Perhaps you’ve noticed: it gets hot in Texas in the summertime, and that means that our trees need as many roots as they can get. But not if they’re wrapping around a trunk and causing the trunk, in turn, to grow around them. That root is already starting to girdle the trunk, and it needs to be cut almost flush with the base of the trunk. Spray the cut end with pruning sealant to reduce the risk of disease invasion.

2. Then the other thing that people notice and worry about is how shallow the root system seems to be. It’s becoming evident that there will soon be large surface roots going out in all directions from the main trunk. What you must remember is that 90 percent of any tree’s roots will be in the top foot of soil. That means you mustn’t add soil to conceal these roots. Learn to live with them. Large, buttressing root systems are par for the course with live oaks. Just learn to enjoy them.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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