Tonight I am doing a program at Secrest Arboretum in the Ohio Chapter of the International Society of Arboriculture series for arborist certification. We will be learning together about “Tree Biology”, so let’s remind ourselves – and teach others – about “the root of the matter.” Here are four maxims about the critical, but often overlooked by many, key to plant health: roots.
First, from Nina Bassuk of Cornell, speaking of mature landscape and community forest trees:
1). Tap roots are rarely present.
2). Most (> 90%) roots in upper 3 ft. of soil.
3). Of these, most (>80%) of the “feeder roots” are in the upper 6- 8 in. of the soil.
4). Horizontal spread is 2.5 – 3.0 times crown spread.
5). Most roots (>60%) are outside of drip-line.
Tree root systems are shallow and spreading!
Second, from Serita Fry, when at OSU, speaking of the biological nature of soils:
In an Average Cup of Healthy Forest Soil, There Are:
1). Arthropods - 50,000
2). Nematodes - 100,000
3). Protozoa: - 20 million
4). Bacteria: - 200 billion
5). Fungi: - 60 miles of fungal hyphae
And this life of the soil is encouraged by soil aggregates that are encouraged by organic matter!
Third, from OSU Extension’s Erik Draper:
Plant’em high - watch’em die;
Plant’em low - never grow
Plant’em right - sleep at night!
Roots need oxygen!
Fourth, turning to Robert Frost and the world of arts as well as sciences:
A tree’s leaves
may be ever so good,
so may its bark,
so may its wood;
But unless you put
the right thing to its root,
It never will show
much flower or fruit.”
Remember the Roots!