P&PDL Picture of the Week for
October 25, 2010

Trunk girdling roots

Michael V. Mickelbart

When tree seedlings are left in small containers too long, the roots can start to circle within the container. As both the root and trunk grows, the root can then begin to “choke” the trunk. This is referred to as girdling. Essentially, what happens over time is the phloem that is responsible for moving carbohydrate reserves (among other things) from the roots to the crown of the tree is cut off and the tree will start to decline. This decline is often not noticeable until the tree is quite old. However, on careful inspection of small plants (such as that in the picture) can often reveal these trunk girdling roots.

When purchasing trees, be sure to inspect them carefully for girdling roots. Also, check the root ball for roots lower in the media profile that are circling the container and may lead to problems later in the tree’s life.

Click image to enlarge

Girdling roots

Purdue Plant & Pest Diagnostic Lab Purdue Cooperative Extension Service