The roots of a tree are the parts that don’t bear any nodes, nor do they ever leaf. They are the base of the tree. Just like a house, the stronger the base, the stronger the structure will be.
Everyone knows that tree roots are important to a tree. But do you know why they’re so important? Well, without the roots, the tree would not be able to survive; it’s as simple as that.
However, we want to go into more detail for you and fully explain the importance of strong tree root systems and the full impact they have on the growth and the health of your trees. If the root system of a tree isn’t healthy, the tree itself won’t be healthy and could become diseased and die. We don’t want that.
To ensure that all the trees in your yard thrive to their fullest potential, it’s critical to make sure that the tree roots are in good shape.
Why are tree roots so important? Here are four reasons why.
Trees need proper water, minerals, and nutrients for survival. How does a tree get these things? By absorbing them through their roots. The roots absorb these directly from the soil and into the stem. From the stem, the water, minerals, and nutrients are then dispersed throughout the tree—into the branches, the leaves, any budding flowers on the tree, any fruit growing on the tree, and so on.
This is also why it’s critical to have healthy and correct soil for your tree to be planted in. Without this healthy soil, the roots won’t be able to properly absorb the necessary nutrients that the tree needs. Unhealthy soil means unhealthy roots, which leads to an unhealthy tree.
In addition to first absorbing the nutrients and food that the tree needs to survive, roots also store necessary nutrients and food for future needs. This is especially important during the colder, winter months, when nutrients tend to be less plentiful than in the summer. This storage by the roots is how trees survive the colder months. Because of the roots, the tree doesn’t go hungry during this time and still gets the nutrients it needs to continue to grow.
Why doesn’t a tree go flying during gusty winds and big storms? It’s because the roots of the tree act as an anchor, keeping the tree in place. The stronger the root system is, the harder it will be for the tree to uproot or move. This is important, as you don’t want your tree to be the reason any damage is caused to your property, a neighbor’s property, or worse, to anyone.
There are two different classifications of root systems that trees have—the fibrous root system and the taproot. Fibrous root systems are found mostly when the system has highly branched and there are many thin roots spreading out. For instance, popular fruit trees and shade trees, such as Douglas firs, have this type of root system. Taproot root systems are likely the root system you’re more familiar with, as this root system has one or more main roots that are rather large but then have smaller side roots. Examples of trees that have taproot root systems are oak, hickory, pecan, and walnut trees.
The roots of the tree also determine the alignment of the tree. You want the tree to stand tall and upright and not lean to one side or the other.
Think of survival of the fittest as that applies to the roots of trees. Plants compete for nutrients and water, especially those plants that are planted in the same soil. The strongest will get these things the fastest and the most. If the roots of your tree are the strongest, then your tree will thrive more than any others.
It’s also important to have a strong and healthy root system. This will allow your tree to have adequate room to expand, as it won’t let any other sort of weeds pop up and begin to grow above it. It will also ensure that there is enough space between trees to avoid any competition (you don’t want two of your trees to be competing for resources).
If you’re curious to know how to tell whether your root system is healthy or not, take a close look at it. If there’s white or light coloring under the bark of the root, then it’s healthy. However, if you see white fungi growing, any sort of slowed growth on the tree, mushrooms growing at the base of the tree, or yellow leaves with chlorosis, then there’s likely a chance the roots are damaged or suffering from a disease. If this is the case, it’s important to call in a professional to look at it and walk you through the best course of action before it gets worse.
It’s also important to note that the roots of a tree always belong under the ground and not above it. If you notice that the roots of the tree are resting on top of the ground rather than under it, this means your yard has suffered a loss of soil. It’s important to speak to a professional arborist right away. This is both important to take care of quickly for the health of your roots and your tree, but also for safety reasons in your yard. You don’t want someone to trip over the roots and injure themselves. It also means that your tree is structurally unsound, and as we mentioned above, that could cause damage if a heavy storm or winds were to arise.
As you can see, tree roots are such an important—if not the most important—part of a tree. They determine how your tree is aligned, how strong it is, if it can withstand a storm, how well it will thrive, and how healthy it will be. Be sure to pay attention to your roots and make sure that they are in great shape at all times.