is this a girdling root?

olreaderFebruary 17, 2014

my dog decided to dig under this Norway maple and the root at right was exposed. Should I try to take it out?

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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

No it looks ok. A girdling root will be above the soil and grows above the soil - wrapping itself around the trunk.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:37AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

yes it is ...

that is what it would be 'called' ...

whether it has accomplished what its name suggests is unknown ...

since you didnt follow it far enough ... and i wouldnt bother to find out ...

sooooo... do i agree with dax??? ... yes .... ???? ... lol

regardless ;.. it is probably much too late to do anything about it ...

i predict.. this tree will die ...

sometime inside of the next 50 to 100 years... if ma nature is nice to it ...


ps: probably coundnt kill a norway if you knocked it over with a bulldozer ... and backed over it a few times .... so why worry ....

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 9:24AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

From what I can see, the root is absolutely a girdling root. Not only that, but it appears in the picture to already be suppressing the root flare quite a bit. The tree may be partially weakened because of the damage already done. If it were my tree, and I wanted to keep it, I'd have an ISA-certified arborist do an on-site evaluation. If the tree was near a structure that could be damaged if the tree falls, I wouldn't even consider just ignoring it.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 9:50AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

if it were my tree, and I wanted to keep it,

===>>> then i would question brandons .. what??? .. lol ...

i would get rid of a norway.. on the day after i bought the house...

and plant a heritage tree that is worthy of the space ...

must be trimmed up pretty high.. since you seem to still have grass under it ... presuming your ID is correct ...


ps: this is mostly because.. as a shade and hosta grower ... we hate maples with a passion ... they do not like to share their space with anything ... and i have other things to do in their space ...

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 10:08AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

You gotta understand that Ken is prejudiced against maples. I don't know if it was the way he was raised or what. (-:

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 10:47AM
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I had thought the tree was planted well because I could see root flare, but I didn't stop to think that the flare was only on one side. I'm not sure if it's a Norway Maple but that's what someone called it at the Maple Forum (see link).

It's close to the house and maybe not a good place to plant a big tree. Maybe the grass is doing ok because of the sprinkler system. But I will plant some smaller trees in the general area--trees and shrubs this year, and maybe later I will get around to perennials etc.

Not sure about hostas, when I found out that people like Martha Stewart liked them I couldn't believe it. When I was a kid I thought people planted hostas because they were lazy or because nothing else would grow in shade.

Here is a link that might be useful: more pictures of the tree

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 1:10PM
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hortster(6a, southcentral KS)

Maybe time for an air spade to see just how far it girdles? Need a certified arborist on site to get the real answer.


    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 4:36PM
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mikebotann(8a SE of Seattle)

I see in the other thread that you are slowly cutting back on the height of your Norway. I did that too with a Crimson King I have. I kept cutting it more and more. The tree is a real thug in my situation.
Here it is last summer. And that's just as big as I want it. 30 seconds with hedge shears several times a season and I'm done with it.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 5:47PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"Not sure about hostas...I thought people planted hostas because they were lazy or because nothing else would grow in shade."

ROFL...I can't wait for Ken to read that. He's gonna love you for that comment, or, it could be the final straw that sets him off on a killing spree. (-:

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 8:37PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

To add to that, any plant that dies to the ground without any winter interest is a complete waste. The colors are lovely during the growing season though!

Mike that looks like a massive coral bells! Interesting strategy with that one. I do the same thing with smoke bushes.

Olreader, it appears you have a fairly small yard. The root system over the next decade may be problematic for you if you want to expand, even maintain, the other plantings in your yard. Its better off planted as a (larger) lawn tree.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2014 at 10:46PM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

I'm not convinced. Where it goes below is the question (horster's answer).

A lot of trees do this...... I (believe) (the majority) of roots that look like that go down or head away and not continue to spiral the root-system, or, the trunk.

Further investigation will tell all.


    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 9:04AM
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Thanks for the responses I will try to take a better picture soon. I removed a little more dirt and the root at right curves around to the front and is just below the soil in the photo above, what I can see goes 180 degrees around the trunk.

A maple bush is a nice idea but this one has green leaves and maybe not as interesting as yours, Mike. Better to plant hostas I think--much less work. (Didn't want to offend anyone--I grew up in the city of Chicago, hostas were in every front yard, they were about the only thing that grew. I didn't know they had a name, I thought about them as "the plant that is all leaves" if I ever thought about them.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:20AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

A girdling root doesn't have to wrap completely around the trunk to be considered a girdling root or to cause damage or failure of the tree. The further around the tree it goes, the more potential it has to cause problems, but even complete failure can be caused by a root that only encircles say one side of a tree. The picture isn't sufficient to diagnose the problem in this case, but it is enough to throw up a big red flag.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:29AM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"Didn't want to offend anyone..."

Don't worry, Ken's a tough old buzzard. I'm sure you didn't bother him at all. I was just poking him a little. I gotta keep him on his toes. LOL

    Bookmark   February 19, 2014 at 10:32AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

It can be done, but not easily. Me & a friend took out a similar girdling root on a Norway, with a sledge-hammer, a splitting wedge & a heavy digging iron to pry it up. Labor intensive and had to avoid doing any more damage to the trunk as necessary.

If you're not confident, prb'ly best not to try it.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2014 at 7:30AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Beng, why would you expend such energy on a Norway? I don't know about Colorado, but Acer platanoides is terribly invasive here in New England. And I've read they are prone to girdling themselves to death, but not before they've taken over the countryside!

Again not sure about CO, but they also grow huge and have aggressive spreading canopies that cast very dense shade, they have allelopathic roots, and it's difficult to grow anything underneath them.

I like Maples, but not Norways. I've already made plans with my friend who owns a tree service, to remove the last remaining ginormous Norway maple in my yard. I've been eyeballing it for 5 years, watching it get bigger, and finally decided it has to go. Just waiting for the snow to melt.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2014 at 9:04PM
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Here's another pic, but still doesn't show the root very well. The root curves around clockwise from the back, you can see it clearly on the right, and then it goes lower in the bottom of the photo and then below the roots coming from the opposite direction.

It sounds like a lot of work to remove the root and I don't think I will try anytime soon. Instead I will keep pruning the top trying to keep the tree under 25 ft or so. The part on the side with the girdling root is the part I want to reduce the most because it is the most vigorous and the branches aren't so well connected to the trunk.

What's the worst that could happen? The tree dies and I have to take it out, the tree looks really ugly and I have to take it out, no big deal when the alternative is taking it out now. If it lasts another few years maybe my neighbors crabapple? tree will have grown nicely and so will anything else I plant.

It's so dry in Colorado I think there's not much of a problem with invasive trees, at least not with most of the common shade trees that are planted like maples. We don't have forests or woods here on the plains. Even along the ditches and creeks I think I see mostly native cottonwoods. Siberian Elms and Russian Olives and maybe Trees of Heaven are slight problems in cities.

This post was edited by olreader on Thu, Feb 27, 14 at 0:24

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 12:04AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Terrene, the tree we worked on was & is an outstanding specimen in our opinions, prb'ly 60' x 60' with massive, well-built forked branches down low (often not the case w/many Norways). Shaded his whole back yard -- keeping it pleasant in hot weather. Well worth a few hrs of hard labor.

Olreader, that's pretty bad & perhaps not worth the effort. If it were me, I'd go after the worst offender there & not bother w/the other, lesser girdlers. What we did was, using the splitting wedge, sledge-hammered it thru the root at the most accessible points, then levered the then-isolated root-section out w/the heavy digging iron.

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 8:25AM
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Absolutely beyond question-a classic case of girdling root on Norway maple. Note the "flatness" of the trunk on that side-another key indication. Now as far as removing these roots, most research I've seen, and this includes some we did ourselves years ago, it turned out completely useless, in that where the severed root end is is in perfect position to resprout a new root which will grow surprisingly fast and re-girdle in the same spot! I wish I was making that up, but I'm not.

Additionally, the longer we go the less value Norway maples seem to have. Not only a terribly invasive species, as Terenne points out, but with the rapid spread of maple tar spot, these things don't even have nice fall color anymore. I don't consider "large-growing" to be a defective trait in a tree, unless, of course, you wanted one that stayed small, lol. But in all other repsects, these trees have really outlived their usefulness in the N. American landscape. Take it down and spend your time/energy on something with more potential, which may not even be in that same part of your yard.


ps..............yeah, I've been an ISA-certified arborist, but only since 1988!

    Bookmark   February 27, 2014 at 1:57PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

To be blunt, thats what I call jacked.

Hopefully you've decided to remove it before it becomes a problem. On the bright side you'll be able to chose a nice replacement or two!

    Bookmark   March 3, 2014 at 9:01PM
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