Tree Root Rot Causes, Symptoms, and Treatments
Don’t let root rot cause your trees to suddenly decline, die, and fall. Knowing how to identify root rot symptoms will help you save your tree or take action before it causes catastrophic property damages.
72tree.com gathered information on the causes of root rot in trees, how to recognize its symptoms, and what treatments you can use to stop or prevent it.
Tree Root Rot Causes
When root rot attacks a tree, the flow of water and nutrients from the roots to the crown is either impeded, or the invading pathogen is carried throughout the tree, killing its host. The following are several of those pathogens:
Rhizoctonia (this fungal pathogen adversely affects younger hosts, older trees are found to be more resistant)
Pythium (this fungus of the Pythiaceae family has 140 known species, most of which are now classified as parasites)
Rhododendron Root Rot (Phytophthora cactorum and Phytophthora cinnamomi were first thought to only survive in subtropical countries but is now known to thrive in cooler countries)
Fusarium (found worldwide, some of this pathogen’s species can adversely affect humans when infected crops are consumed)
Rosellinia necatrix (Dematophora necatrix, Hypoxylon necatrix, and Pleurographium necator, known as one of the most devastating plant fungal diseases, affecting several fruit tree and crop species)
Honey Fungi, Shoestring Root Rot, or Openky (Armillaria frequently occurs in hardwoods and pines)
Texas Root Rot (Phymatotrichopsis, Phymatotrichum, Cotton, or Ozonium root rot occurs more frequently in Mexico and the southwestern United States, causing sudden wilt and death)
Note: Fungal spores naturally occur and lie dormant in soil. These spores only begin reproducing when conditions support it. Such conditions include compacted soil, poorly-drained soil, and overwatering. As the fungi reproduce, tree roots provide a prime source of nutrients, allowing them to spread quickly.
Symptoms of Tree Root Rot
Most visible symptoms of root rot strikingly resemble the signs of an advanced pest infestation, making an accurate diagnosis more difficult. The most common, above ground, symptoms of root rot include:
• Gradual or sudden decline without a detectible reason
• Severely stunted or poor growth patterns
• Smaller, chlorotic leaves or needles (new growth)
• Wilted, yellowed, or browned leaves or needles
• Severe canopy thinning
• Stress crops (abnormally large amount of fruit/seeds)
• Fungal fruiting structures (mushrooms) found on the root flare or growing from surface roots
• Once in the xylem and phloem (cambium), cankers or sunken dead areas may appear on branches or the trunk of the host
A more accurate way to diagnose root rot is to dig to the roots to see if decay is present. Care should be taken when exposing roots to avoid inflicting further harm to the tree.
Note: Anthracnose is another group of fungal pathogens that cause similar above-ground tree damage but are not typically associated with root rot. You can find further information about anthracnose at 72tree.com/symptoms-of-anthracnose/
Tip: Hire an ISA certified arborist to inspect and accurately diagnose the cause(s) of the symptoms you have identified.
Tree Root Rot Treatment
Trees can sometimes be saved early on by pruning out infected roots. If a tree is in an advanced state of decline, the recommended way to control root rot diseases from spreading is to entirely remove it.
Chemical treatments that include propiconazole, chloropicrin, fosetyl-aluminum, or methyl bromide, among others, won’t completely cure or remove the disease but can reduce the infection level. These treatments are applied in and around the root plate of infected trees and especially in holes left after infected trees, and their stumps have been removed.
Note: The application of chemical treatments on your trees (for any reason) should be performed as directed on the product labeling and closely monitored by a certified arborist.
Root Rot Prevention for Trees
Trees have adapted over millennia to protect themselves against infection and illness. They are efficient at protecting themselves when healthy, and you can further assist them in resisting root rot by:
• Avoiding overwatering
• Ensuring proper water drainage by amending/enriching soil structure
• Preventing soil compaction on or around the root plate
• Protecting surface roots and trunks from mechanical and/or equipment damage
• Immediately addressing storm damage and/or soil erosion
• Removing unsalvageable trees from your property
• Planting disease-resistant species
Tip: You can also help trees fight fungal attacks by promoting their health. These are some of the things you can do to improve their health:
• Seasonal pruning
• Seasonally applying and refreshing organic mulch
• Deep watering (especially during drought conditions)
• Pre-growing season fertilization
• Annual tree inspections by a certified arborist
Note: The importance of annual tree inspections cannot be overstated. The ability to detect problems in their beginning stages offers more options to eliminate existing problems and take measures to prevent issues throughout the tree’s growing season.
Tree Root Rot
In this article, you discovered valuable information about the causes of tree root rot, recognizing its symptoms, and how to treat it or prevent it.
Taking swift action when root rot is suspected in your trees will increase your chances of saving them and preventing further infection.
Ignoring the signs of root rot will render your tree unsalvageable, invite other disease and infestation, and potentially cause catastrophic property damage when your tree destabilizes and falls.
Tree Blowndown Windthrow and Windsnap
Don’t let your tree die from being toppled in a storm. Knowing how windthrow and windsnap can topple trees will help you increase their natural defenses against it.
72tree.com gathered information on what windthrow and windsnap are, what causes them, and how they can be prevented.
What is Windthrow?
Windthrow occurs when trees are toppled by wind. When windthrow occurs, trees are uprooted as they are blown over.
What is Windsnap?
Windsnap also occurs when trees are toppled by wind. When windsnap occurs, trees are broken off at the trunk as they are blown down.
Windthrow and Windsnap Causes
While wind is a contributing factor to windthrow and windsnap, it is not the primary cause (under normal circumstances). Consider the following:
What Causes Windthrow – Windthrow can topple the seemingly sturdiest of trees in the lightest of breezes or most furious of winds. Consider the following conditions that can lead to windthrow:
•Earthquakes can loosen tree roots from their soil, leaving the tree destabilized
• Floods can over-saturate the soil surrounding a tree, leaving roots with nothing to grip
• Excessive rains can also over-saturate the soil around a tree
• Snow accumulation can add enough weight to the tree to overpower its roots
• Construction activities can cause soil compaction, leading to root death
• Deep trenching too close to a tree can sever its roots
• Erosion can strip soil and sediments away from the root plate, leaving roots exposed
• Root rot caused by disease, leaving roots soft and without anchoring power
• Improper watering can cause roots to grow too close to the surface, offering little to no support
Either by nature or neglect, when roots are destabilized, any amount of wind can catch the tree’s canopy, disrupt its balance, and topple it without notice.
Note: A tree’s root plate expands outward from the trunk and continues to its dripline. While roots can grow beyond the dripline, those within it should be nurtured and protected throughout the tree’s life.
What Causes Windsnap – Windsnap brings down trees when the trunk/stem snaps, completely separating the crown and a portion of the trunk from the root system left in the ground. The following conditions can lead to windsnap:
• Sudden severe wind “microbursts”
• Poor trunk and limb development from bad pruning practices
• Diseases that cause hydraulic failure like blight
• Heart rot caused by fungi that feed on the inner wood of the trunk
Another term used to represent both windthrow and windsnap is “blowdown.” This term is usually applied when both windthrow and windsnap occur in the same place. Events that can lead to blowdown include:
• Tropical storms
• Hail storms
• Bomb detonations
• Factory explosions
• Volcanic eruptions (pyroclastic flows)
• Meteor impacts or atmospheric explosions
For trees that somehow manage to remain standing after such events, they will likely have been stripped of their leaves and bark, sentencing them to certain death.
Note: In 1980, the eruption of Mt. St. Helens destroyed more than 4 billion board feet of timber by windthrow and windsnap.
In 1945, an atomic bomb was detonated 2,000 feet over the city of Hiroshima, destroying five square miles of the city and flattening nearly all vegetation. Incredibly, 170 trees survived the explosion within one and a quarter-mile of ground zero, and are alive today.
And in 1908, the Tunguska explosion (believed to have been a meteorite) caused a blowdown of trees within 2,000 square kilometers of forest.
Windthrow and Windsnap Prevention
We can’t stop the weather. Even with all of the technology and advanced warning systems available, we still cannot reasonably predict how severe weather events will affect our trees. The following will help you fortify your trees to keep them from suffering windthrow and windsnap:
Planting – You can best protect your tree by planting it in a location observing the following:
• Plant your tree in a location protected from prevailing winds or known storm paths
• The location should be well-drained and not prone to flooding
• The sun/shade ratio should accommodate the tree species
Be mindful of the structures (fences, sheds, buildings, hills, etc.) and vegetation that surround the tree and can serve as a windbreak.
Read 72tree.com/beginners-guide-tree-planting/ for more tree planting tips.
Watering – Watering your tree is fundamental in encouraging roots to grow deep, offering improved stability and resistance to windthrow:
•Water newly planted trees three to four times per week
• During periods of drought, increase the frequency and duration of waterings
• Do not use overhead watering, it spreads disease, instead, use a drip or soak method
Water benefits every aspect of your tree’s health and long life. Without it, hydraulic failure can cause its fast and untimely death.
Fertilizing – When planting and each year after that, the soil (principally within the dripline) should be tested to gauge the amount of nutrients and pH level. Liquid, granular, and organic fertilizers can be used to adjust your soil as needed.
Mulching – Mulching the root plate will help the soil retain moisture and regulate soil temperature throughout the year.
Pruning – Proper seasonal pruning will encourage healthy growth and strength of your tree’s structure. Crown thinning will also help prevent blowdown by offering less resistance to wind.
Windthrow and windsnap prevention also depends on keeping your trees disease and pest free. By encouraging their growth and providing responsible seasonal care, trees are capable of fending off most threats. However, when there is a disease or pest outbreak in your region, call an ISA certified arborist to evaluate your tree and recommend preventative measures.
Read more about tree pests and diseases at 72tree.com/5-tree-pests-diseases-avoid-spring/
Windthrow, Windsnap, and Blowdown
In this article, you discovered the difference between windthrow and windsnap, what events can cause them, and steps you can take to prevent them.
By encouraging your trees to grow healthy and well-rooted, you can give them a better chance of surviving severe weather events.
Allowing your trees to grow without proper care and attention can create an opportunity for it to be blown over or snapped, causing catastrophic damages and financial loss when landing on your home or car.
How To Avoid Invasive Tree Roots Destroying Your Landscape
Invasive tree roots can destroy your turf, buckle concrete, and quickly become a very costly nuisance. Knowing which tree species to avoid planting and how to deal with aggressive trees already on your property will save you time, money, and stress.
72tree.com gathered information on invasive tree roots, the damages they cause, how to stop them, and which species you should not plant.
What Are Invasive Tree Roots
Invasive tree roots quickly grow in search of water and nutrients, finding their way under walkways, driveways, building foundations, sidewalks, water lines, sewer pipes, etc. As these roots thicken, they can cause these structures to fracture and buckle.
A common trait of invasive plants and tree roots is that they are fast-growing. Once these roots find a water source, they take hold and continue spreading to find more water sources.
Invasive Tree Root Damage
Once invasive tree roots spread across your yard or landscape, all they need is a water source. When that water source is tapped into, the roots thicken and tear up your turf, while breaking through nearly everything they have grown beneath.
Among the most expensive damages, invasive tree roots can cause: when they grow under the foundation of your home.
Note: These roots don’t just break through concrete or asphalt, they can cause the earth surrounding them to heave upward.
Read 72tree.com/tree-roots-buckling-concrete-driveway/ to uncover the devastation these roots can cause and ways to repair the damage they cause.
How To Stop Invasive Tree Roots
Don’t plant tree species with invasive roots. If you inherited these trees with your property or were ill-advised when you purchased and planted a tree, here are some of the measures you can take to slow these roots down:
1. Install root barriers to a depth of 18 to 24 inches (the majority of tree roots are found within the top 18 inches of soil). You can install these barriers around young trees or around structures to stop or divert the direction of the roots. When installing barriers, allow enough space for tree roots to form a stable root plate. The root plate generally surrounds the trunk and extends to the tree’s drip line.
2. Root pruning is an option that should be done by an arborist. Pruning tree roots can leave the tree vulnerable to disease and infestation.
3. After planting a tree, provide it with frequent deep waterings to encourage its roots to grow deeper.
4. Plant trees in locations where they can achieve their full growth potential without interfering with structures and landscape features.
5. Make sure the tree you are planting is appropriate for your hardiness zone. Planting outside the tree’s zone may trigger its roots to become aggressive to supply it with enough moisture.
6. Often times, the only solution for invasive root problems is to have the tree removed and the stump ground.
Invasive Tree Root Species
The following is a brief list of tree species that have displayed invasive root tendencies, are high-maintenance, and short-lived (when compared to similar non-invasive species):
• Aspen (Populus)
• Eastern Cottonwood (Populus deltoides)
• Empress or Princess Tree (Paulownia tomentosa)
• English Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)
• English Holly (Ilex aquifolium)
• English Laurel (Prunus laurocerasus)
• Golden Chain Tree (Laburnum)
• Horse Chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum)
• Mimosa (Albizia julibrissin)
• Norway Maple (Acer platanoides)
• Saltcedar (Tamarix ramosissima)
• Siberian elm (Ulmus pumila)
• Silver Maple (Acer saccharinum)
• Sweet Cherry (Prunus avium)
• Sweet Gum (Liquidambar styraciflua)
• Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
• Sycamore Maple (Acer pseudoplatanus)
• Tree of Heaven (Ailanthus altissima)
• Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)
• White Mulberry (Morus alba)
• White Poplar (Populus alba)
Many of the trees listed above can grow to enormous proportions (in height and width) and likely are not appropriate for small to medium-sized yards and landscapes.
Regardless of the species, you would like to plant, do your homework on how it grows, where it grows, and problems others have had with it. You can also hire an arborist to assess your yard or landscape before planting the tree. This will help you give the tree a healthy beginning.
Read more about planting trees by visiting 72tree.com/tree-planting-guide/
Invasive Tree Roots
In this article, you discovered what invasive tree roots are, the damage they are capable of, what you can do to stop them, and several of the species to avoid.
By addressing invasive tree roots as early as possible, you can avoid significant damages to your property, water supply, sewage line, and your home’s foundation.
When you allow invasive tree roots to grow unchecked, you are inviting them to tear up your turf, destroy structures, and upheave the earth they grow in.
How to Fix Exposed Tree Roots
Are ugly surface roots buckling your concrete driveway or stopping you from mowing your lawn? Before you get frustrated and cut them out, there are some things you need to know.
72tree.com gathered the following information on how to handle surface roots without compromising the health of your tree.
Why Do Tree Roots Surface
While some roots grow deep in the ground, the majority of them spread out from the trunk within the first 4 to 12 inches of soil. As the tree ages, several factors may bring them to the surface:
Erosion – Over time, the top layers of soil may be washed away, lowering the ground level, subsequently exposing tree roots.
Soil Compaction – As tree roots spread out, they seek moist aerated soil to derive water and nutrients. When they run into compacted soil, they will turn downward or upward, and in many cases will grow along or just beneath ground level.
Natural Growth – The same way a tree trunk and limbs increase their girth with age, so do roots. Since the majority of tree roots grow within the first few inches of soil, they tend to break the surface as they thicken.
Species – Some trees grow this way. Species such as maples, poplars, and willows tend to grow surface roots.
As annoying as it may be, surface roots are a common landscape problem that can cause significant and costly damage.
Surface Root Problems
When tree roots surface, there are many potential issues they bring with them. Those issues may include:
Disease, Infestation, and Rot – Surface roots are highly susceptible to being injured or damaged by landscaping equipment, foot traffic, or wildlife. Damaged surface roots are easily infected by disease, or infested by insects and can carry harmful pathogens to the trunk and branches of the tree.
Damaged Driveway or Sidewalk – As these roots thicken and surface, the ones that have grown under sidewalks, driveways, and foundations will eventually exert enough pressure to raise or break them.
Read more on how tree roots can buckle a driveway and what to do at 72tree.com/tree-roots-buckling-concrete-driveway/
Damaged Landscape Equipment – Lawnmowers and other mechanical equipment can be severely damaged when making contact with surfaced tree roots.
Abnormal Growth – Where Tree roots surface, any grass or plant life surrounding those roots may become sparse or die.
Trip Hazard – When surface roots are further exposed by erosion, they may become a severe trip hazard when navigating your landscape.
Surface Root Solutions
While cutting the roots away may seem to be the best alternative, it is not. Cutting away roots (like damaging them) leaves the tree highly susceptible to deadly diseases and infestation.
The following are ways to resolve surface root issues without causing severe damage to the tree:
Mulch – At the first sign of roots breaking the surface, lay down a 2 to 3-inch layer of organic mulch. Mulch will help the soil retain moisture, and over time may redirect the roots to grow downward.
Soil Replacement – In cases of erosion exposing roots, lay down a 3 to 4-inch layer of soil to replace what was eroded. To prevent further erosion, you can mulch the area around the tree, seed the new soil with grass, or lay down sod.
Plant Plants – Where erosion is not the problem, one solution may be planting the area with taller ground cover or plants that won’t need mowing. As you create this “tree root garden,” take care to avoid damaging the roots while planting.
If you are still inclined to have the roots removed, hire an arborist to do this for you. Depending on the damage that may have already occurred, and type of roots that will be removed, it may be suggested to remove the tree.
Surface Root Prevention
Avoid the inconvenience of surface roots by taking action before they come to the surface:
Planting Location – Each tree species has a preferred type of soil, light, and nutrients for healthy growth. By planting trees in optimal conditions for their species, roots will be less likely to surface as the tree ages.
Soil – The soil type, moisture level, nutrient content, and pH level affect how tree roots grow. Deep watering, seasonal fertilizing, and annual pH level adjustments will encourage tree roots to grow deeper.
Species – As mentioned earlier, some tree species are prone to grow surface roots. When selecting trees for your landscape or yard, be sure to ask about the tree’s growth patterns, and do your research on the species needs for optimal growing conditions.
Read more about tree planting and care at 72tree.com/tree-planting-guide/
Exposed Tree Root Solutions
Don’t let gnarly surface roots discourage you from having a beautiful landscape. There are ways to incorporate them in your design without fatally wounding your tree.
In this article, you discovered why tree roots come to the surface, the problems they can cause, and measures you can take to solve and prevent them.
Your mishandling or damaging of surface roots can lead to the health decline and death of your tree. Before you cut roots away, call a professional to evaluate the situation and offer alternatives to save your landscape and your tree.
Tree Roots Are Buckling My Concrete Driveway
Tree roots constantly seek a water source, in doing so, they can spread very deep or very shallow and in a very large radius from the trunk. When roots spread at shallow depths, they will find their way under asphalt, sidewalks, and yes, driveways.
As the roots naturally expand and thicken, they will displace everything around them creating tremendous potential energy. This energy is usually released upward (path of least resistance), resulting in the breaking, cracking, warping, or buckling of whatever structure is above.
Here, we will discuss measures you can take to repair damaged concrete, remove damaging roots, and how to avoid this issue in the future.
How Much of the Tree’s Roots Can Be Removed
The answer to this isn’t quite as simple as it may seem. Here are some factors to consider:
Tree Roots Three Inches or More in Diameter – When cutting roots this size, they typically will not grow back. However, a wound this large leaves the root susceptible to insect and disease. Often times, this allows rot to reach all the way back to the trunk, seriously compromising the health of the tree.
Tree Roots Less Than Two Inches in Diameter – Tree roots this size are typically able to regenerate. Removing them will only e a temporary fix.
Tree Roots Grow Far and Wide – Typically, you will find that one inch converts to about a foot and a half. That is, for every inch at DBH (Diameter at Breast Height – measured 4.5 feet above the ground), the roots will extend up to a foot and a half away from the tree trunk. A twelve inch trunk at DBH means roots are extending up to eighteen feet away from the trunk in every direction.
Tree Roots Are Sensitive to Disturbance – Tree roots seek out uncompacted soil rich in oxygen (like the soil under sidewalks and driveways). When the soil underneath a tree is compacted by heavy machinery or used as a storage area for a construction site, the roots beneath the surface are literally being choked to death. Eventually, this will result in the decline of the tree’s health, leading to its death.
Tree Roots Under the Driveway – Roots provide structural integrity to a tree. If they have grown under the driveway, the driveway is now a part of its structural integrity. Depending on the size and depth of the roots, removing them may lead to the falling of the tree in severe weather.
More often than not, by the time tree roots have buckled your driveway, you may be faced with the ultimate removal of the tree, if you are to break up and re-lay the affected portion of the driveway.
How to Repair Your Driveway and Save Tree Roots
If the tree is a keeper in your landscape and the roots in question are vital to its survival, there are construction options or methods which will allow the coexistence of the roots and your driveway. Here is one of the multiple options you may use:
Aggregate Surfacing – This technique requires the cutting and careful removal of the damaged concrete. Once the concrete has been removed, the surface below is covered with driveway fabric (aka: geotextile fabric), then four to five inches of dense grade aggregate (DGA) or road stone. The project is completed by using edging along the sides to prevent the aggregate from spreading laterally.
Tree Species, Watering, and Location Matter
Ultimately, it is the lack of planning or the proper information to form a plan that lead to situations such as these. Before planting a tree, you should be aware of its species, potential growth, root spread capacity, and if its roots are typically classified as invasive or not.
Location is a key factor in the survival of any tree or plant. Planting a tree too close to a structure is like inviting a bull into a china cabinet. As trees grow, they instinctively seek out water sources, expand their canopies, and potentially wreak havoc on the structure they were planted next to.
Once a tree is planted, frequent watering will help its root system to grow deeper. Shallow root systems often reflect insufficient watering or compacted soil further beneath the surface.
To learn more about proper planting, see: http://treecareadvice.blogspot.com/2015/12/properly-planting-canadian-hemlock.html
Professional Tree and Tree Root Removal
While the solution you choose may be an easy one, innocent mistakes may lead to a much more serious situation as your tree’s health declines and ultimately dies.
Before any steps are taken to remove a tree or a portion of its root system, it is highly recommended to seek the advice of a certified arborist. An arborist is a tree professional trained to spot trouble pertaining to tree issues and how to efficiently resolve them.