Girdling roots are a common problem caused by nursery and transplanting practices, soil obstructions and sometimes unknown factors. These roots are at or slightly below the soil line and cut into or circle the trunk. Girdling roots restrict a tree’s ability to appropriately access water and nutrients.
Trees that leaf out late, have small chlorotic leaves or needles, drop their leaves early or are dying back should be checked for a girdling root, especially if the root flare of the tree is not visible. A trunk indentation or stem flattening is also a typical sign.
Most tree species can exhibit girdling roots. Some, like sugar, Norway maple and white pine are particularly prone to this issue.
Girdling roots should be removed in manner that minimizes injury to the trunk. This typically begins with soil excavation to uncover the extent of the problem. The girdling roots are then carefully cut away.
View more tips