Liquid Amber Tree -- problem roots?

Discussion in 'Woody Plants' started by jogardener, Jun 18, 2006.

  1. jogardener

    jogardener Member

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    Last year we renovated our back yard and enquired at our local garden centre as to the type of tree that would be appropriate to plant in our backyard as a shade tree, taking into account the soil conditions, proximity to our house, etc. The liquid amber was highly recommended, yet recently we came across some information that would lead us to believe that the liquid amber roots can become quite a problem -- most of the information indicated that the problems were with trees grown in California. I am just wondering if the same problems will effect these trees grown in the lower mainland of B.C. Or perhaps if the "problem" liquid amber trees grown in California may be different than the ones available in B.C.
     
  2. HortLine

    HortLine Active Member 10 Years

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    Hi there,
    Sounds like you have a tree in the genus Liquidambar. Great tree.
    The most common varieties grow to 25 meters with a 10 meter spread, so it can be quite a large tree for a backyard depending on how much space you have.
    As far as root problems, the only thing we've found says that their surface roots can crack sidewalks and create a nuisance in lawns.
    There is nothing to indicate that the Liquidambar grown in California would be any different than what we grow here, as the largest species can grow here just like they can down there.
    Cheers!
     
  3. angelyne

    angelyne Member

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    I just watched a show on TLC. They showed a couple in california whose has has literally been invaded by a liquid amber tree. After spending $25,000 on the problem without solving it, the only thing left is either bulldoze the entire house, or spend $700,000.00 to have the entire foundation excavated and the slab replaced
     
  4. Dixie

    Dixie Active Member

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    I wouldn't blame it on the tree, I would place blame on whoever planted it close enough to a house to cause $700,000 worth of damage. I like this tree, great fall color. I would recommend a fruitless kind if in an area where there is much foot traffic. The spikey fruits can be hazardous ankle breakers!
     
  5. RadioRon

    RadioRon Member

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    My wife also saw that show and described it to me. We are quite puzzled. Those on the show clearly identified the tree as a Liquidamber and my wife says that the leaf shape and bark texture appeared to match that of our own liquidamber out on our front lawn. On the show, they said that this type of tree has aggressive suckers that travel in all directions much like some invasive bamboo and cannot be easily killed off by simply removing the tree itself. This highly aggressive suckering was something entirely new and a big surprise to us, so much so that I suspect those on the show got it all wrong. Apparently, when they dug up around the house's foundation they discovered roots as large as 14 inches diameter and some large roots were seen to be going under the foundation and were cracking the slab inside the foundation! I know there are a number of different sweetgums like Palo Alto and American and so on, but I really wonder what it is that they were talking about. None of our books describe the sweetgum as invasive or aggressive and we have never been warned away from it at a nursery. In fact, professional arborists seem to favor cultivars of this species as a boulevard tree and they are seen all over the lower mainland on the sides of the roads. I don't believe the pros would be planting a highly invasive tree on boulevards.

    So what gives?

    Ron
     
  6. Rima

    Rima Active Member

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    Who said the pros planted it? BUT, I saw that show too, and also questioned that it was a liquidambar, and they may just have gotten it all wrong (taken the name from the son of the show's producer rather than a nursery person!). There have been more glaring errors perpetrated on television by ... decorating people, 'master gardeners', etc. than you could imagine. They couldn't actually care (or know) less about plants, but are just doing a TV show and have different priorities.
     
  7. nmpeter

    nmpeter Member

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    You bet!..I just saw this show on TLC and those are some rather agressive roots. I'd avoid putting one of those anywhere near my poperty, as the roots are propagating and even cutting the tree down won't stop it! The runners once extablished just cannot be stopped inexpensively. A real eye opener for me. Never heard of this tree before.
     
  8. smivies

    smivies Active Member

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    If concentrated Round-Up applied to the stump of newly removed Populus species effectively kills the tree and prevents new root sprouts, there should be no reason why it wouldn't work on a Liquidamber.

    There are potentially other factors at play here. A house with a basement is not going to be as vulnerable as a slab house. Tree roots in a much drier California are going to more agressively gravitate to moister pockets of soil. Perhaps the owners of the California house had a problem with their sewer pipes below the slab?
     
  9. nmpeter

    nmpeter Member

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    from what the show talked about, even after cutting the main tree down any existing roots would put up shoot, so I would suspect you'd have to dump a few gallons of round up around to deal with it. A home that was treated two years previous was displayed..and it was "still" a problem. I had a trash tree of some sort get between a wall and foundation of my previous home and I was never actually able to effectively kill it, even with scorched earth tactics..rock salt eventually killed it, but nothing grew in the garden on the other side of the slab either.

    The affected house had serious invasion ( I'm talking 8-12 inch multiple roots) problems before it was even noticed. A real heartbreaker of a story, try to catch it, I think the name was "this house has to go"

    There was a pool on the property and no doubt this golden amber smells water...Nice looking tree I'd say however, but I'll take my pin oak any day over that problem.
     
  10. Dixie

    Dixie Active Member

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    it is all about placement. i don't think this tree should be totally dismissed. maybe perhaps in a small residential setting it isn't appropriate, but in a larger open park-like setting it can be great. it is native where i am located, and is a very lovely tree in the fall. maybe the tree isn't to blame, but the person who chooses to plant it in potentially problematic area (near a structure). yes, i do agree that certain h&g shows could use some education. we watch several on sunday mornings and a lot of the times i am yelling at the tv, "why would they do that"?
     
  11. nmpeter

    nmpeter Member

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    placement is everything, I could see this tree being a good idea on a hill where erosion is a problem.

    These home improvement and flip shows are getting some people in big trouble, not to mention that when I was selling my home, I had to deal with a series of rude and insulting buyers who could only spout HGTV buzzwords when making offers 20-30% under my asking. At least now they are updating some of these flips showing it wasn't all quick cash and great times.

    Getting off the topic however..

    Knowing your landscaping is really important. I was excited about having two _giant_evergreen trees on my property, until I realized the needles are not a trade off for leaves...

    I'm much wiser these days knowing how aggressive some plants are given the right conditions.
     
  12. PamelaAnne

    PamelaAnne Member

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    I saw this show yesterday too. My eyes nervously darted to the enormous liquid amber outside the kitchen window... and as sidewalks are rising up all over the neighborhood I'm going to place my faith that they did have the tree right and try to find a solution.

    The offending tree was 70+ feet away, so placement was not the issue. They're all over the neighborhood in San Jose. Placement, and who put it in is a moot point anyway. I have no control over it, the tree was put in by the city because some idiot official who knew nothing about trees decided "let's go with cheap and fast growing..." and I'll get fined if I cut it down.

    But it got me to thinking--Did the tree on this show go crazy because it was cut down? The homeowners on the show had cut it over 2 1/2 years ago. I was wondering if the roots went wild, trying to find a place to shoot up a new tree. Any logic to that?
     
  13. nmpeter

    nmpeter Member

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    the 2.5 year tree was another house, that was showing that the roots seem to have a mind of their own even after the tree is cut down.

    Who is responsible when a sidewalk lifts due to a city tree?..that's a huge liability for a trip/fall issue. I'd be on that doubly quick. In my previous home town in NJ, the city reimbursed you if you had the one approved company come and fix it, if roots had to be cut, only this one company could do it ( sweet deal eh?)

    No being an aborist, my swag is that a growing tree is always looking to sock in a good supply of water, hence the root sprawl, shoots come up when the supply of sunlight is cut off ( like when the tree is cut back hard or removed) since without sunlight..ni food production.
     
  14. Dixie

    Dixie Active Member

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    i was actually refering to the tree mentioned in the tv show, not yours. i should have quoted the person who made the post.
     
  15. Robert Feller

    Robert Feller Member

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    OK, now you've got me thinking (worrying). We live in Southern California and have THREE Liquid Amber Trees planted in close proximity (within 5 feet of each other) in our front yard. I'm guessing they are ~20 years old and the roots are now really starting to show on the surface. They are pretty high close to the base of the tree and branch out over the yard. The 3 trees are clumped about 15 feet from our garage. We just finished a HUGE remodel over the garage, but by the sounds of your posts, we are in for an expensive and damaging future, right? I'm guessing if we grind down the exposed roots to try and level the yard for new grass, we are facing the possibility of a) killing off the trees, b) weakening the trees which will compromise their strength to stand, therefore risking the possibility of falling on ours or the neighbor's house, right?

    Thanks for any help!
     
  16. kaspian

    kaspian Active Member 10 Years

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    This is apparently a species (assuming we are, in fact, all talking about the same tree: the North American native Liquidambar styraciflua) whose growth habits vary widely, perhaps in response to varying environmental conditions. Someone suggested above that a tree growing in California might be more aggressive in seeking out moisture than one grown someplace else. I'd say this is probably true.

    A row of Liquidambar were planted as street trees on the block in Norfolk, Virginia, where I lived as a young child. I remember the trees were about twice as tall as our house, so probably 40-50 feet. They'd been pruned so that the lowest limbs were perhaps 15-20 feet above the ground. They were NOT lifting sidewalks or cracking pavement or anything like that. The only problem I remember was that it was nearly impossible to grow grass in the immediate vicinity of the tree -- evidently the roots were close enough to the surface as to suck up all the available water and nutrients. But other established trees growing nearby seemed to be unaffected. And there was certainly no suckering going on.

    But that was Norfolk.
     
  17. lalarhea

    lalarhea New Member

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    Don't blame the trees. I haven't seen the episode, but I've seen this problem with foundations before in New Orleans. I noticed similarities as I read posts trying to find out about liquid amber trees. When someone said that the sidewalks and other foundations throughout the neighborhood were affected I was sure of the problem.
    The earliest Homes built in the area sit on top of natural land bridges created by shifts in the river. Those higher, more solid areas would have been the changing shoreline where heavier sediment like rocks and sand would have been compacted over thousands of years (this is how the barrier islands were formed). The lighter organic matter would settle in the lower areas in the form of silt which can be hundreds and even thousands of feet deep (which is why Louisiana has rich oil deposits).
    Houses in New Orleans need pilings pounded through the soft ground until they hit the bedrock underneath. Although this is required for new construction, Some of the suburbs built quickly in the 60's and 70's got away with not using pilings. Foundations, sidewalks, streets and yards have settled unevenly throughout the years.
    Residents that don't shore up their foundations as they sink will have the problems described in the show. Sudden and sever damage will happen after prolonged periods of rain or drought especially if gutters are absent or not maintained. The foundation, sidewalk, street will quickly sink into voids that have been created.The Neighborhood in the show may be in California, but it was built on soft ground with improper shoring.
    When assessing damage on a home, always look at the surrounding area. Damage tells a story and without seeing the whole picture, someone might look at the raised cement and blame the poor trees. Unlike cement, as the soil sinks the tree can shore itself up. The tree roots were most likely holding up the house, sidewalks and streets for years. Instead of filling in voids under the cement, they cut down the trees. As the roots decayed, The cement began to crack and fall into the large voids under and around them.
    I hope this longwinded explanation will help someone in the future. Sometimes it is the tree. Do lots of research and investigating so you don't settle for a seemingly obvious answer and make a big problem into a catastrouphic one.
     
  18. Tabby Sue

    Tabby Sue New Member

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    For 23 years, we never had a major problem with our liquidamber's tree roots. One large root grew under the fence to the neighbor's front yard. We cut the root where it went under the fence and that part on the neighbor's lawn has never grown any shoots.

    But this year, 25 years after it was planted, we have shoots with leaves growing all over the front yard. My husband said he trimmed them all down 2 days ago but they are back. Perhaps those who have not seen problems are seeing younger trees???
     

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