Urban and Community Forestry
What is that?
Is it serious?
How do you know if there is a girdling root?
- A girdling root is one that circles the base of a tree at or
just below the surface.
- Gridling roots can also girdle other roots, but without harm.
- The most commonly affected species are maples, lindens, and
What can be done about girdling roots?
- The only sure sign is to see a root circling the main stem at
or just below the soil surface.
- probe the soil at the tree base with a stiff wire to see if a
circling root lies under the surface
- excavate the soil at the tree base to reveal any underground
- Common symptoms include
- one side of the trunk flattened
- marginal and/or tip scorching on the leaves
- crown discoloration or dieback
- Many of these symptoms can be caused by other factors
such as root damage, flooding, or wilt diseases.
Where can I get more information?
- carefully inspect the root system at the time of transplantation
- bend roots away from the stem before backfilling
- cut any roots (shaped like a "J") that curl back around the
- use a saw or chisel to sever the girdling root, especially if
the tree has a significant target
- reduce stress on the tree recovering from the removal of a girdling
Johnson, Gary R., and Richard J. Hauer. 2000. A
Practitioner's Guide to Stem Girdling Roots of Trees. Impacts on
Trees, Symptomology, and Prevention. St. Paul, MN: University
of Minnesota Extension Service. For other information, advice and help
on this topic, call offices of your State Urban Forestry Coordinator or
University Extension service, or visit urban forestry web sites.