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False Economy of Big Trees

false economy of big trees
Tree roots as they really grow

The false economy of big trees is a hard thing to overcome. People are visual and impatient. This often leads them do do things that actually short circuit the very results they have in mind. All plants and especially trees consist of a visible part and an invisible part.  A tree is a balanced equation X Top = X Roots. The larger the top growth of a tree, the larger the root area must be to support that tree. A tree is essentially a water pump. The roots take in water and nutrients from the soil and pump them up through the trunk to the branches out to the leaves where the water is released through the stoma into the air.   The nutrients are extracted along the way. The leaves in turn gather energy from sunlight and transfer it downward through the tree.  This is a very simplified description of what happens inside a tree.

Some tree species are more resilient than others but all trees when bare root planted will go through “transplant shock”. Transplant shock is a nice way of saying we lost a lot of the roots during the process of moving the tree. Roots are designed to live in a cool moist environment out of sunlight and dry air. When exposed for any length of time, they are damaged of killed and must regrow to balance the tree equation. Transplant shock lasts as long as it takes to rebalance the top and the roots of the tree. Some trees never recover.

Ball and burlap trees can also suffer from very few roots. When dug, the ball may only contain large roots leaving the small feeder roots behind. Such a tree must regenerate all those lost feeder roots before vigorous growth can begin again. Think of it this way, the main roots are like arms and legs and the feeder roots are like fingers and toes. A ball and burlap tree has been cut off at the knees and elbows. It can regenerate those arms and legs, fingers and toes but it takes time.

Our trees at Rock Bridge Trees are grown in rootmaker containers. These fabric containers were designed to gently prune the roots of the trees as they grow. Pruned tree roots act much like a hedge that when regularly pruned grows thicker and thicker with concentrated dense growth. For trees that tend to have a taproot, these containers contain that large root and leave it undamaged and ready to leap when placed it its new permanent home.

The reason we grow in these containers is to produce a tree that is small enough to ship and still have a complete root system.

As you can see in the picture, the tree is well rooted and its roots are properly situated to reach outward into the soil around it. This tree will establish quickly and be able to grow vigorously much quicker than a larger tree that must first regenerate a root system.

The false economy of big trees should now be apparent unless a tree can be moved with a majority of its roots. We are all in a hurry and wish to see quick results from our efforts but, sometimes starting smaller will have better results. Remember, “A tree without roots is just a stick.”

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False economy of big trees
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