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  • Timothy Snell

Telephone Pole Trees

Updated: Mar 15, 2023

Telephone Pole Trees

(Figure 1)

If you have ever seen a tree in the same situation as the landscape red maple pictured above, you may not know that there is anything to be concerned about, because frankly, you may not know much about trees in general. That's totally fine because that's where we come in, the ISA certified arborists at Snell Tree Experts. Allow us to tell you what's wrong with this situation: First and foremost, the tree's interface between trunk and roots, aka 'root collar,' is seemingly non-existent (fig. 1). Here's an example of what a healthy root collar should look like: See those beautifully designed 'buttresses' that come off the base of the trunk and seemingly disappear into the ground (fig. 2)? That’s the root collar!

(Figure 2) (Figure 3)

The inordinate presence of root collar issues, especially those trees whose root collars are buried, have mulch piled up against their trunks (fig. 3), or have girdling roots (roots that encircle the root collar and constrict it – fig. 4), brings to light one major factor behind why so many trees have root collar issues: Lack of public awareness that there is a problem to begin with.

We as arborists fully understand that you the tree owner are just trying to do the best you can to care for your tree with what limited resources you have, be that proper equipment or knowledge. It is then our duty for us to inform you that you can prevent many tree issues that you encounter by starting with how you take care of them!

(Figure 4)

So, why is a tree's buried root collar a concern for you as a tree owner? There just so happens to be a few problems behind this seemingly unimportant and common feature: A buried root collar encourages girdling roots to develop, which essentially choke your tree to death; soil and mulch mounded around the trunk will cause the base of the tree to rot and possibly increase the likelihood it will fall over; and tree health will decline due to the roots not getting sufficient oxygen, which will in turn make it more susceptible to pests and diseases that will kill it.

Thankfully we can help change root collar issues with some corrective techniques and awesomely innovative industry tools. A 'root collar excavation' (figures 5 and 6) can be performed by using hand tools or a high-powered pneumatic air tool to loosen the soil that is mounded around the trunk of the tree (fig. 7). At this time, an inspection can be done to determine if any root pruning is necessary (remember the pesky 'girdling root' previously discussed?). If we act before it's too late, we may be able to prevent you from having to remove your tree. Your tree will be thanking you for saving them from a life of chronic illness!

(Figure 5)

(Figure 6)

(Figure 7)

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