I built my dream home on a rocky hillside in upstate NY.
While excavating for the driveway I may have damaged my Maple tree.
The maple is about 30 years old and is perched on a rock outcropping.
It roots are sprawling in every direction for all to see before they
descend beneath the soil. It was necessary for the drive way to cut in
about 12 feet from the base of the tree.
In doing so, I remember encountering, and severing one root that was
about 3 inches in diameter. Looking back I'm afraid it might have been
the tap root for the tree. There isn't much soil beneath the tree
itself. The tree literally sits atop a rock. The soil was deepest
where I cut the driveway.
I wish I had the foresight to preserve any all encountered roots.
Long story short I retained the excavated area with a laid up dry
retaining wall and have watched the tree grow frailer with each
That was three years ago. What might I do to save this handsome tree?
If anyone has advice I would appreciate some.
I'm concerned that one more year and I will have to remove the tree.
Probably more damaging was compaction of the remaining roots... this slow
decline (rather than a dramatic sudden death) is usually indicative of soil
compaction. If you stored construction material, or drove over the rootzone,
or mechanically compacted the soil around the tree, then you crushed the
tilth and oxygen out of the area. To be blunt, there is nothing you can do.
I had a similar problem of roots cut in excavating near a linden tree
which started to fail over a period of years. I had the tree pruned
severely and after that it recovered beautifully. I have no idea if
this would help in your situation but it might be worth trying.
On Wed, 03 Dec 2003 15:32:38 GMT, "David J Bockman"
On 3 Dec 2003 05:28:50 -0800, firstname.lastname@example.org (Dante)
Most trees don't have a taproot (or it declines shortly after teh tree
becomes established). You don't say how big this tree is (standard is
to measure diameter of trunk 4 feet above grade), but it does not
sound like an excessive amount of root loss.
Trees build stores of reserved energy in the form of sugars and
starches during the good times. When they face injury or stress, they
can seem fine for a time because they are using these reserves. As
stored NRG runs out, you see decline as much as 5 years later. That
does not mean your tree will continue to decline, but there is a
chance it will.
I agree that compaction of remaining roots may have been a factor here
(as may have been grade changes during construction) but I don't agree
the situation is hopeless. Vertical mulching or radial trenching are
agressive measures that can inprove soil structure. Slower but also
effective is simply adding mulch to the root zone. Pile on up to 4"
of wood chips, compost, bark, or other organic material. Be careful
not to pile soil or mulch against the trunk--the first major root
flares should be visible at the surface. Make sure to supplement
water during droughty periods and do NOT severely prune the tree to
compensate for lost roots--that adds insult to injury [well, injury to
injury). Whatever leaf producing branches you can maintain will help
the tree to replenish depleted NRG reserves and recover.
Check out the site in my sig below for more info about treatment of
trees damaged by construction.
For more info about the International Society of Arboriculture, please visit
For consumer info about tree care, visit http://www.treesaregood.com /
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