Killing surface roots but not the tree

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
One of the landscape gardeners that I used to work with emailed me with a problem. A client of hers has a white poplar, Populus albies, the one with the white fuzz on the underside of the leaf. These trees are known for alway having surface roots that sprout/sucker like crazy.

Does anyone have a solution for getting rid of the surface roots?

One idea is to chop out the surface roots.
Another is to let the sprouts grow up a bit to have more surface area then apply Roundup at some dosage to kill the sprout but not enough to translocate back to the tree.

The people like the tree so they don't want it to die.

I know this is going to be controversial but let's leave this in the theoretical arena not the practical.

Top dressing to raise the ground level is not an option because of grade changes.
 

mrtree

Well-Known Member
Pratically I doubt there is very much you can do. White poplar (Populus alba) is known for surface roots and suckering as you mention and I have not had much luck with anything but a chainsaw and stump cutter.

I think you know what the problems are with the ideas you have mentioned; I can't think of any other viable options.
 

Old_Monkey

New Member
I have heard of treatments to keep it from suckering but to get rid of the surface roots? Replacement as they will become a trouble tree eventually if they aren't already.
 

Marc_H

New Member
There is a product called Sucker Stopper but I have never used it. I think Forestry Suppliers carries it. Cutting the roots is probably not the best thing for the tree. I know a few people that recommend topdressing around the roots to slightly raise the grade. It sounds like a lot of work to me.
 

guymayor

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]

Top dressing to raise the ground level is not an option because of grade changes.

[/ QUOTE ]Tom, once again it seems that you have, with true Scottish flair, eliminated a reasonable solution a priori.


I have at times chopped out the roots. If the cuts can be clean and the tree can handle it, why not? We prune branches all the time, so...I also use fabric over the root and soil next to the root, if mulching is "not an option" due to turf worship.

Can you please describe the issue with grade changes? Not myth, but reality?


Then can you explain "I know this is going to be controversial but let's leave this in the theoretical arena not the practical. "
 

easyphloem

Well-Known Member
From my own experience with surface roots....


I have a client who, several years ago, wanted to get rid of the surface roots growing up through the turf from a red maple. We looked at several options, and price options, and ended up coming over with our small stump grinder and grinding some of the biggest surface roots. This was not the prettiest thing to witness, but three years later, the tree is healthy, the grass does not have surface roots growing up through it, and the client is happy.


Sometimes I think you can go in with a sledgehammer mentality and come out smelling like roses!

SZ
 

guymayor

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
I have a client who, several years ago, wanted to get rid of the surface roots growing up through the turf from a red maple. We ended up coming over with our small stump grinder and grinding some of the biggest surface roots.

[/ QUOTE ]Sounds effective, and tree-friendly if you got clean cuts on the proximal end.
 

guymayor

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
Yes Guy, we did do some clean cuts after the stump grinder went through. SZ

[/ QUOTE ]Never doubted that, steph!
 

mrtree

Well-Known Member
Do you really believe that you can grind roots out, clean cut and everything will be fine? If the roots are more than an inch or two in diameter I would bet there is decay in them and its headed for the root crown.

Red maple are a bottom land species so I bet the roots are coming back to the surface.

Your grinding may have made the customer happy, but what about the tree? Its still there but perhaps in a compromised state. Is this the proper method that an arborist should be using, or is it the butcher approach?
 

guymayor

Well-Known Member
[ QUOTE ]
Do you really believe that you can grind roots out, clean cut and everything will be fine?

[/ QUOTE ]Yes, fine eough.[ QUOTE ]
Your grinding may have made the customer happy, but what about the tree? Its still there but perhaps in a compromised state. Is this the proper method that an arborist should be using, or is it the butcher approach?

[/ QUOTE ]Tree is compromised by many things. Roots are neither holy or indispensable. they codit better than branches, generally. root pruning can be proper pruning.
 

willie

Member
its pretty hard to kill poplar here. if you could remove surface roots, cover with cloth as has been mentioned , and aeriate the lawn this may help.
 

TProsser

New Member
Every solution for this tree is temporary. And there is nothing wrong with temporary. The tree will do what its gentics tell it to do.

In some trees, roots tend to come to the surface because of compaction. And they will reproduce through root suckers if stressed.

Another approach could be to reduce the compaction with an air spade / air knife at some point in the treatment. Do a 7 ft radius ring from the trunk, stir in rich black soil and then mulch 3 inches deep. It works like magic.

A tree growth regulator can also reduce stress but they do not work very well on poplars.
 
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