Without leaves, trees wouldn’t be able to produce food; without bark, they’d be left vulnerable to pests and pathogens. Without fruit and flowers, they wouldn’t be able to reproduce; and, without a trunk, they’d hardly qualify as trees in the first place.
But while these anatomical features all pitch in to keep a tree alive and healthy, a tree’s root system is perhaps its most important component. Roots perform a number of vital roles for trees, and their health is inextricably linked with the health of the entire plant. We’ll talk about three of the most important jobs roots perform for trees below so that you can understand exactly why it is so important to take care of them.
Note that these services are not listed in any particular order.
A tree’s roots serve to anchor a tree and keep it growing upright. However, contrary to popular perception, they largely accomplish this by growing out and creating a wide “net” of support, rather than by growing deep into the soil. The woody roots originating near the base of the tree are typically those which provide the most support to the tree.
As every elementary school student learns, tree roots work a bit like a straw and absorb water from the soil. However, a tree’s roots don’t only absorb water – they also absorb oxygen and minerals. Different root types have different capacities for absorption. The thick, woody roots near the trunk absorb relatively little water or minerals. Instead, it is the fine, white roots at the distal ends of the root system that are responsible for absorbing most of the necessary resources.
Some trees grow in water-logged soils, and a few actually grow in standing water. Willow trees are a great example of the former, while cypress and mangrove trees are good examples of the latter. These trees face a rather unique challenge, in that they have access to plenty of water; oxygen becomes the most precious resource they seek. To sidestep this problem, many of these types of trees produce roots (or sections thereof) that grow above the water, which allows them to access oxygen.
As you can clearly see, a tree’s roots are invaluable. If you want your trees to live long and healthy lives, you’ll need to ensure that they remain healthy. In fact, aboveground problems can often be traced to a subterranean cause that’s afflicting the root system.
If you suspect that one of your trees is suffering from an ailing root system, or you just want to have your trees inspected to ensure they are thriving, give your friends at Evergreen Arborist Consultants a call. We’ll have one of our experienced, ISA-certified arborists visit your property and examine your trees and, if necessary, their roots. Just be sure to do so quickly, as even minor problems afflicting the root system can quickly kill even the healthiest of trees.