Root Flare Exposure and Tree Health - Complete Landsculpture

Root Flare Exposure and Tree Health

Root Flare Exposure and Tree Health

Root flare exposure is critical to a tree’s health. However, people often plant trees too deeply. Nearly eighty percent of trees in urban areas have had their root flares covered by dirt during planting.

Others have had their flares covered up by mulch. A tree with its root flare exposed is less likely to have health problems.

What is a Root Flare?

Unlike the roots of a tree, the root flare has bark. The main function of bark is to protect. Bark protects the living tissue, known as the cambium, from damage. It acts like a shield, keeping disease and pests from its critical parts.

Plants contain aerial tissue called bark that is designed to be exposed to air. Covering the tissue for long periods of time, with either dirt or mulch or water, can cause rot or the development of adventitious roots that can crowd and girdle the root flare. Adventitious roots are roots that develop in places that shouldn’t, under normal circumstances.

A good analogy for this is when we submerge our skin in water for too long. Skin wrinkles and gets cuts when exposed to air, instead of always being in water. Similarly, dirt, mulch, or excess water covering a root flare can cause the bark to break down and rot away. A tree needs to expose its root flare to oxygen to thrive.

Function of the Root Flare

The root flare is the intersection of the root system and trunk of the tree. The main center of exchange in materials is within the tree. This intersection is living tissue that moves nutrients and water from roots to the tree.

The leaves create sugars and transport them down to the roots via the root flare. If the base of the tree sustains damage, it cannot transport nutrients to the top. This can result in the leaves or branches appearing unhealthy.

Signs and Symptoms of Root Flare Damage

The most prevalent sign of root flare damage is loss of leaves or branches. Your tree may not be growing as many leaves as usual. You may also notice that it has more dead branches than before.

Another sign that the canopy is affected is when it shows damage in sections. For example, half or part of the canopy appears stressed, but the rest of the canopy appears fine.

Disease, insect infestation, and dieback are other possible signs of root flare damage. If a tree does not expose its root flares, it becomes more susceptible to secondary stressors.

How to Uncover a Root Flare

Begin removing the dirt slowly using a shovel or hand shovel, being careful not to nick the bark. Pay great attention to the slope of the trunk where it enters the soil. You want to expose the area of the trunk where it begins to taper, and the main anchoring roots of the tree are visible.

If you don’t have the time or the tools, it might be best to hire a certified arborist to do the job. A tree specialist from Complete Landsculpture will use the right tools and care to protect your tree’s roots. This will happen during the exposure process.

An Airspade removes dirt around the root flare with a pressured air nozzle, specially made for work around tree roots. 

Once you properly uncover the root flare, it is important to remove any girdling roots.

Determining which girdling roots or other smaller roots to remove is not within the scope of this article. Before cutting any part of your tree, consult a certified arborist, especially for the roots.

Once you have uncovered the root flare and removed any unwanted roots, it’s important to finish off the area. Placing bricks or forming some type of embankment, (if necessary, to keep dirt from building up again over the root flare is helpful.

Exposing root flares should be a one-time job. Rain and weather can cause dirt to accumulate around the base of a tree. This happens when there is no retaining wall to prevent erosion.

Planting flowers or other plants near the root flare can lead to build up. Monitor root flares in your yard. Your trees will be more adept at fighting off disease, insects and drought.

Contact the experts here at Complete Landsculpture. Our certified Arborists can help you with all your tree care needs. 

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