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One of the most preventable tree maintenance issues that the certified arborists at Scapes Inc. run into is when a tree experiences girdling – or choking – which constricts the major flare roots of a tree. Should you encounter this problem with the trees on your property, basework (also referred to as root flare excavation) is necessary to diagnose what factors are causing the girdling in your situation. During basework, soil is removed from near the base of the tree trunk to check for a deterioration of root color, excessive ground cover or soil, and the presence of any wires, twine or other material that may be affecting the tree’s health.

What is girdling and why does it occur?

A tree may experience girdling from a root, twine, wire or other material that essentially is choking it. Trees, like human beings, have vascular systems, and in this situation, the tree’s major flare roots become constricted. Girdling can be caused by natural or artificial means – all of which be prevented with proper tree installation.

During tree installation, wire or poly-twine should be removed and the installer should note the location of the roots of the tree being planted as well as other trees in the area. Using a firm like Scapes Inc. that is experienced in proper tree installation techniques is key to preventing girdling in the first place.

Your tree installer should also be versed in the appropriate amount, type and placement of fill to use as well as correct planting depth during installation. Soil build-up around the base of the tree and planting a tree too deep can create girdling problems. Paying careful attention to ground cover near the tree is also important. Excessive ground cover as well as fill can lead to an accumulation of soil around the trunk which can result in the deterioration of bark and trunk tissue which in turn leads to the development of the roots that tend to girdle the tree.

Symptoms of girdling include:

  • The root flare is not clearly visible, and the part of the tree that is coming out of the ground may look like a thick post, or telephone pole, versus the base of a tree connected to roots.
  • Issues with the canopy may indicate girdling. If your tree exhibits a late leaf set in the spring or early defoliation in the fall, you may have a girdling issue.
  • Foliage that is nestled unnaturally close to branches. This is typically a sign of poor shoot elongation.
  • Other signs of nutritional deficiency.

What is involved with basework?

If you notice the symptoms listed above on the trees on your property, contact Scapes Inc. at 972-407-5000. Our certified arborists will visit your location and carefully excavate the area around the base of the tree, removing ground cover as needed. To help prevent additional damage to the tree and its root system, we use a high-pressure air spade for excavation. With the tree base and roots exposed, we can diagnose what factors are contributing to girdling of the tree in question and formulate a treatment plan.

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