Help for a friend

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dbhguru
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Help for a friend

Post by dbhguru » Tue Apr 27, 2010 6:57 am

ENTS,

Dr. Doug Seale called me last evening and asked my opinion of what might happen to his big what pine outside his house if in an operation to improve his lawn, they cut a couple of big white pine roots. How sensitive is the white pine to cutting of a couple of large roots. My guess was that the tree wouldn't take too kindly to it. Who has experience with how much root loss different species can withstand?

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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gnmcmartin
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Re: Help for a friend

Post by gnmcmartin » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:58 am

Bob:

I have been observing this kind of thing informally for many, many years. I don't have any specific observations concerning white pine, but in general the effects of cutting some large roots, even some rather close to the trunks of trees, does not always have the dire consequences one might think. A number of times I have observed the cutting of roots of older trees in a way that I thought would lead to disaster, but it hasn't, at least not for a good number of years.

One case in point with Norway spruce. In Garrett County, MD there is an institution called Penn Alps, devoted to preserving crafts and other cultural/historical elements of the area. They decided to build a large building in the "spruce forest" area. They dug a large foundation right next to three large old Norway spruce trees, each about 100 feet tall or a bit more. All the roots were severed to about 3 feet from the trunks of these trees--all the roots were cut off on one side of these trees. I said to myself, "good bye trees," and waited for them to be blown down or die. Last time I was there they were all growing just fine. Will these trees ultimately be affected and die early? I just don't know, so far--after about 8 years--so good.

If the question is whether to cut down the tree or to allow some large roots to be cut, I say allow the roots to be cut. The tree may do fine. But if the tree is upwind from some structure and could pose some hazard if it is blown down, that is another consideration. I am amazed that the Norway spruce trees at Penn Alps have not blown down--they are very exposed to strong westerly winds every time a cold front passes.

If the roots of the white pine are 10 or more feet from the trunk of the tree, I would think the damage to the tree should not be so severe. If within 5 feet or so I would be a bit more concerned, but I would still not predict disaster. But if the issue is simply exposed roots in a lawn, why not mulch the area and give up on the grass. Or plant some kind of ground cover, or put in a kind of "shade garden." I'll take a nice white pine tree over grass any time!

One more comment: be careful about using weed control chemicals under the tree. Norway spruce is especially sensitive to these chemicals. I would be careful under white pines also.

--Gaines

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dbhguru
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Re: Help for a friend

Post by dbhguru » Tue Apr 27, 2010 9:42 am

Gaines,

Thanks. I will pass along your comments to Doug. He has a problem with his lawn area near the trees, which are near the house. He is looking to pave over a spot, which necessitates leveling an are, which leads to the root issue. He is concerned about harming his pines.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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mdavie
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Re: Help for a friend

Post by mdavie » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:10 pm

Bob, undoubtedly he will harm his pines, though to what extent can't be clearly said. It could be a relatively minor issue, or a major problem. The biggest immediate problem with cutting large roots is the potential loss of anchorage of the tree. This can create a dangerous problem, so I think that no matter what, your friend should have a good arborist check out the situation. I'm not sure why he wants to pave to fix a lawn problem, but maybe he could be persuaded into doing something different. Even if the tree is not rendered hazardous, loss of roots equals a loss of soil to exploit for water and minerals to produce food, and some commensurate loss of health. Please encourage them to find an arborist.

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dbhguru
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Re: Help for a friend

Post by dbhguru » Tue Apr 27, 2010 7:32 pm

Mike,

Thanks. I'll pass your comment on to Doug.

Bob
Robert T. Leverett
Co-founder, Native Native Tree Society
Co-founder and President
Friends of Mohawk Trail State Forest
Co-founder, National Cadre

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