Oak root collar excavation questions

We are attempting a manual root collar excavation on our 51” burr oak, that has been declining over the past eight years that we have lived here. It is slow going, and appears that the tree has been buried for a very long time. There is a layer of crumbly weird rock, ceramic & glass shards, and rusted metal pieces that make us think the burial happened when the house was constructed in 1920. The bark under the surface is almost smooth. Last year a chicken of the woods appeared by the base of the tree, so we are doing what we can to help it out, but the more I Google, the more disheartened I get. We had an arborist check it out, and we did a crown clean out over the winter and are debating their fertilizer treatment, but we just can’t afford the price tag that comes with their air spade excavation. I’m including pictures of what we’ve gotten done so far, over the course of several days. Should we keep going deeper? Or are we fighting a losing battle here? 11F07600-1D2E-43F7-99BE-E0E2329D66AA.jpeg 1BB92719-C6FF-4979-B421-DD95C4D0B17F.jpeg 21ACCA0C-13FF-4754-AA6A-2B289A7F4687.jpeg
 

Jzack605

Branched out member
Location
Long island
Curious if anyone has any low cost solutions to an air spade. Something with a small compressor and air gun? Seems unlikely but it definitely got my mind thinking
 

southsoundtree

Been here a while
Location
Olympia, WA
Curious if anyone has any low cost solutions to an air spade. Something with a small compressor and air gun? Seems unlikely but it definitely got my mind thinking

@Tom Dunlap has a
Shop-made air spade thread somewhere.

A compressor and air gun is slow going, but can help.



Water excavation can help.


Is there any slope to the area? If so, dig a trench on the downhill side and wash soil away.
 
I read that thread about a DIY air spade - it is a bit beyond my abilities, but I was planning on using the hose once I got a bit further down and things dried up a bit more (it’s quite soggy right now).

So the bark being decayed is ok? Has anyone had success in rehabilitating a tree that was being parasitized by chicken of the woods (ours is Laetiporus cincinnatus)?
 

Jzack605

Branched out member
Location
Long island
Second water for excavation. There are some good hose nozzles out there that are very helpful. I usually integrate that when I airspade.
 

Tom Dunlap

Here from the beginning
Administrator

Home Spade

The link in the thread for the valve is dead. Look for 'spring loaded gated valve' to start. There are other valves that would work too.
 
Start getting your hole deeper away from the trunk and dig toward the trunk.



Erosion will bury the tree if it's the low point, little by little.
Yep. We figured we would have to put in a retaining wall/tree well. Trying to figure out how to add drainage to it is proving to be tough. Do they make exterior sump pumps? ;-)
 

Mitch Hoy

Participating member
Location
Rochester
The use of Paclobutrazol could be critical to any possible success here. Working with a good plant health care technician/arborist will be necessary in that regard.
While some polypores can be symbiotic, Laetiporous create rot. The extent of rot will need to be determined by the crown excavation.
In my opinion, the course of treatment will be the same for any level of rot that doesn’t totally compromise the tree: Paclobutrazol and vertical mulching. If the pockets of decay are small and external, the tree could make a fairly good recovery. It is more likely that there will be a more significant zone of decay associated with a polypore able to produce a decent fruiting body. In this contingency, it is possible to halt the colonization, but a cavity will be formed. The cavity will become habitat to both microfauna and small fauna, which will encourage decay, albeit at a level possibly manageable to the tree if its root issues are addressed. White Oak family members are particularly good at sustaining with hollows, although it is part of the transition to senescence and decline. Unmanaged, it could rot further and compromise the tree. Any large hollow could also qualify the tree as a hazard. An arborist should be able to determine that level of hazard.
The other possibility here is that the decay is systemic and advanced in the root mass. In this case, the tree is compromised. If you are finding that a significant portion of the root mass is rotted, I would consult an arborist moving forward.
Variable drainage isn’t much of an issue for Quercus Macrocarpa. As stated above, continued depositing of erosion would exacerbate or recreate the issue.
I realize that services are expensive, but I would recommend working with an arborist as much as you can throughout this process.
I hope this helps!
 
The use of Paclobutrazol could be critical to any possible success here. Working with a good plant health care technician/arborist will be necessary in that regard.
While some polypores can be symbiotic, Laetiporous create rot. The extent of rot will need to be determined by the crown excavation.
In my opinion, the course of treatment will be the same for any level of rot that doesn’t totally compromise the tree: Paclobutrazol and vertical mulching. If the pockets of decay are small and external, the tree could make a fairly good recovery. It is more likely that there will be a more significant zone of decay associated with a polypore able to produce a decent fruiting body. In this contingency, it is possible to halt the colonization, but a cavity will be formed. The cavity will become habitat to both microfauna and small fauna, which will encourage decay, albeit at a level possibly manageable to the tree if its root issues are addressed. White Oak family members are particularly good at sustaining with hollows, although it is part of the transition to senescence and decline. Unmanaged, it could rot further and compromise the tree. Any large hollow could also qualify the tree as a hazard. An arborist should be able to determine that level of hazard.
The other possibility here is that the decay is systemic and advanced in the root mass. In this case, the tree is compromised. If you are finding that a significant portion of the root mass is rotted, I would consult an arborist moving forward.
Variable drainage isn’t much of an issue for Quercus Macrocarpa. As stated above, continued depositing of erosion would exacerbate or recreate the issue.
I realize that services are expensive, but I would recommend working with an arborist as much as you can throughout this process.
I hope this helps!
Thank you! I have only just started excavating near where the chicken sprang up, and I definitely have deeper to go...I did come across a weird blob that at first I thought was a root, but part of to came away and it was white inside and, weirdly, smelled of sewage. I removed what I found so far, and it was attached to the bark on that area, which also had white on it, but most of that scraped off. I’ll be focusing on that area tomorrow afternoon, so if I find any more I’ll take a picture of it.

I think I will try to find a master arborist for a paid consult - the guy before was a certified arborist, and the first out of several people who have examined the tree over the years who mentioned root crown excavation. But $1500 for that, when possibly removing the tree will be 8-10k, was a bit more than we can hack at the moment. So I’m doing what I can myself, and the info here and elsewhere on the site has been hugely helpful.
 
What is near the tree?
Structure-wise? It’s probably 20’ from the corner of our house, maybe 30-40’ from our neighbor’s. It is surrounded by grass and creeping charlie and flanked most sides by flower beds. We never did manage to grow much in the way of grass underneath it, so we figured switching over to a giant mulch ring (not up against the trunk) wouldn't be too difficult. We just can’t make it all the way to the drip line. Hopefully that will be ok.
 

Mitch Hoy

Participating member
Location
Rochester
Thank you! I have only just started excavating near where the chicken sprang up, and I definitely have deeper to go...I did come across a weird blob that at first I thought was a root, but part of to came away and it was white inside and, weirdly, smelled of sewage.
It sounds like you may have found an un-fruited mutinus elegrans, or possibly a type of truffle. Both are saprobic, feeding on decaying plant matter. We cover areas of our garden with fresh wood chips every year and find both in the layer of decomposition. I am just south of you in Rochester, MN. We share the same ecology.
 
I had no idea there were truffles in Minnesota - I’ve been looking up pictures of both, and it definitely looked like a truffle. It was big, too, around the size of my fist. Can’t imagine anyone wanting to eat that one, though. I like truffles, but this one smelled foul.
 
I take it back - this doesn’t look like a truffle, more like wet concrete (it was easily breakable by hand). Definitely smells like sewage.



46996CAB-5D03-449A-9DFB-B10B5A4D584D.jpeg C1993A3F-991F-4782-9565-5368F95BF4CA.jpeg
 

southsoundtree

Been here a while
Location
Olympia, WA
Sometimes, some risk mitigation while retainedcan be accomplished through pruning, but some trees are too far gone, decay wise for any real gain.


Post up a bunch of pictures of the whole tree and/or sections.





I have no knowledge of any significance about oaks, burr oaks, or chicken of the woods... different ecosystem, here.
 
Sometimes, some risk mitigation while retainedcan be accomplished through pruning, but some trees are too far gone, decay wise for any real gain.


Post up a bunch of pictures of the whole tree and/or sections.





I have no knowledge of any significance about oaks, burr oaks, or chicken of the woods... different ecosystem, here.
It’s tough to get good pictures of the whole thing, but here’s what I’ve got.

92B64BAB-69BE-4BB2-999F-35362CF2A097.jpeg EDC03954-64C0-43DF-9F6E-8C8BC22BB69C.jpeg 3435C6E5-C825-4C71-A6B2-F3B780E55782.jpeg
 

New threads New posts

Kask Stihl NORTHEASTERN Arborists Wesspur TreeStuff.com Kask Teufelberger Westminster X-Rigging Teufelberger Tracked Lifts Arbor Expo BayLeafDigital
Top Bottom