Damaged magnolia tree roots

Discussion in 'Magnoliaceae' started by gardengnome, Mar 6, 2006.

  1. gardengnome

    gardengnome Member

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    I have two lovely old magnolia trees around my house. The trees are quite large, and I assume quite old. This winter, some of the pipes had to be worked on, and some of the work was done around my trees. I was told that it was necessary to cut off some of the roots from both trees in order to put in new pipes right between the trees. The roots cut off were fairly thick (up to 3 inches) and within couple of feet from the tree trunks. I am very concerned that too much was cut off, and that my trees might now be damaged. I was wondering if the trees can recover from such drastic operation, and whether the trees have enough root support. I worry that with the strong enough wind, if the trees are not rooted properly, they may collapse onto the house. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. I already read advice provided on page 2 regarding magnolia tree roots, but I was wondering if anyone has anything to add. Thank you.
     
  2. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Your best option is to get a certified arborist to examine the situation in person re: property damage. Find an Arborist
     
  3. Rima

    Rima Active Member

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    If only a couple of roots on one side were cut, you should be o.k. That's the trouble with mags, they root very shallowly.
     
  4. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    I would not be willing to bet tens of thousands of dollars of potential roof or house damage against advice given sight unseen. Pay to have it looked at so that you can be certain of what must be done and enjoy peace of mind.
     
  5. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    In cases like this always have a certified
    professional come in and evaluate the
    problem. If the arborist is not sure what
    to do then a few photos can be posted in
    this forum for us to go over and give our
    ideas on what should be done. I already
    know what probably needs to be done
    but I cannot see enough or know enough
    about the trees to adequately analyze the
    situation.

    Sometimes we have to sacrifice a major
    loss to the size and shape of the tree in
    order to force it to produce root growth.
    An on the spot evaluation by a professional
    can help much more in this matter than we
    can from our vantage point here. It also is
    rather important to know if these trees are
    deciduous or are they evergreens as we do
    not prune them quite the same but a hard
    pruning to them to force them to produce
    root re-growth for better long term tree
    stability, then the certified arborist may
    have to recommend having to prune these
    forms in the same manner but it takes a
    longer period of time for a deciduous
    Magnolia to bounce back and produce
    top growth. Some deciduous forms do
    not respond well at all to pruning which
    is why many people do not prune them
    at any time, as opposed to an evergreen
    which recover much faster on average.

    Jim
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    All trees have shallow roots, some have a fair amount of deep ones as well. Ideally a tree expert would have been brought in to see about protecting the trees with alternative approaches, such as running the pipe under most of the roots before the work was done. A record size English oak at the agricultural experiment station near Victoria (Sydney?) was killed by trenching near it some years ago, you are correct that your magnolias may have been seriously impacted.

    Do not cut the tops back! Trees are organisms with integrated systems, just like us. Regrowth of cut roots is prompted by hormones generated by opening of overwintering terminal buds. Reducing the top reduces the tree's ability to recover its root system. Decapitation is not a remedy for amputation, heading back does not ameliorate root loss.
     
  7. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Do not cut the tops back! Trees are organisms with
    integrated systems, just like us. Regrowth of cut roots
    is prompted by hormones generated by opening of
    overwintering terminal buds. Reducing the top reduces
    the tree's ability to recover its root system. Decapitation
    is not a remedy for amputation, heading back does not
    ameliorate root loss.


    The book authors and the lab techs with their Ph.D.’s
    still need an old war horse to come in and clean up
    their messes of oversight, mistakes due to their own
    negligence and their inability to know how to grow
    plants for anyone other than themselves. We can talk
    the physiological aspects of growing trees all we want
    but we cannot let personal preference interfere with
    our analyses of a given situation. Yes, there is evidence
    that biochemical processes in the leaves do equate to
    how the root system can be impacted but what the
    experts have lost sight of is this situation does not
    pertain to them. In that with the topping of the tree
    we do get root re-growth and the kids in the labs will
    not see it when they've read and been told they won't
    but we do see the effects of forced change with plants
    in the ground where it does seem to matter the most
    but people have forgotten that. This situation may
    require a hard pruning otherwise we may be looking
    at an expense to treat the trees and then later have to take
    them out anyway. Arborists are not well trained in root
    systems. A lot of it is due to the above stated philosophy
    from researchers that have no hands on knowledge of
    these plants and it seems others are not as well but in
    order to effectively work on these trees we may have
    to spend most of our time concentrating on the root
    system to repair the damage and to force new growth.
    Leaving the top alone will not initiate new growth readily
    for damaged deciduous Magnolia roots and this will
    have to be our main focus for them. Anything else is just
    a typical band-aid approach to put money in someone
    else's pocket at the expense of the owner and the trees
    themselves. I am trying to prevent that from happening.

    Textbook answers and utopian thought are useless out
    in real world conditions regarding plants. Who is the
    owner going to want to have come in and help? Someone
    that has nothing but educated plant jargon to offer or have
    someone that has dealt with this before for others and
    lived long enough to see the plant recover?

    Jim
     
  8. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    "'We'll cut back the top of the tree to adjust for the few roots lost.' FALSE! About 60% of the living cells in a tree are in the main stem and large branches and roots. In order to appreciably reduce the energy demand of the top, severe pruning must be done, so much so that the appearance and functional value of the tree is lost. A key point to remember is that, yes, roots may have been lost, but new roots cannot be produced without energy and growth regulators which can only come from the leaves so any reduction in leaves also reduces the rate of root recovery. It is better to spend more time and money on post-construction care than to cut back the top."

    http://www.lacebarkinc.com/establish.htm
     
  9. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Who said anything about cutting off all the limbs that
    will have or support leaves on them? We leave enough
    leaves to carry out the photosynthetic processes needed
    for growth and development.

    Throwing a book at me has no meaning from people that
    have no practical application of deciduous Magnolias.
    I respect their opinion but I do not agree with it. Too
    much applied science in plants and enough expertise
    in plants tells me they are wrong. They need me to
    show them a few things.

    Deciduous Magnolias are a whole different world from
    many other flowering trees and you know it. Growing
    deciduous Magnolias is not simply planting them and
    leaving them alone, there are many other variables people
    have not yet learned that others had to learn the hard way
    depending on which form and cultivar they grew. To insist
    on having a few people that really do not know anything
    about the plant dismiss the lifelong work by other people
    that did know and grow the plant but took those others
    word for how the plants grow and behave makes the whole
    issue moot to the owner of the trees in question and to
    me also. At least now the owner of the damaged trees has
    an avenue to pursue and can have a certified arborist come
    in and make an honest evaluation, as was suggested, as to
    whether the trees should be saved, can they be saved and
    how do we go about saving them.

    Being recognized as a "go to" person for knowledge of
    Magnolias in a select area for a plant of which many have
    originated from or were obtained through Don Kleim
    or thanks to his help, does not bode well at all with me
    as someone has a lot of proving to do to impress me that
    they know deciduous Magnolias and the physiology of
    them. I'll defend the people that taught me against anyone
    and everyone if need be. No holds barred either.

    People do not look at these plants from below the soil
    surface. I suggest a few people start doing just that if
    they really want to learn these plants and what makes
    them tick. The fleshy roots are delicate and do not like
    foot traffic we will see written in various books. Who
    do you think they learned that from? The same people
    that taught me and we give credit to someone else that
    may never have grown these plants.

    Last post for a while I think.

    Jim
     
  10. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    if I can throw my 2 cents in. how about making clean cuts to the damaged roots, backfill with native material. wait and watch the tree for a year and see what IT decides it cannot support, let the tree experience some dieback and then when it seems to have regained its vigor, prune to remove dead material and possibly poor structure that has developed.
     
  11. Dixie

    Dixie Active Member

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    Yes, repairing the trenched through roots is a good idea. they will be able to heal easier if they are cleanly cut. Ron B was right when he said they should have explored other options when trenching. ideally they should have re-routed and gone under the roots. most of the roots are in the top 12 inches of soil anyway. topping is NOT the answer. if you are worried about the tree toppling onto your house now, topping will highly increase the chances of limb breakage in the future. there is no good reason to drastically remove the tree's canopy. it is the life source for the tree, how is it suppose to repair itself if all of its energy source is removed? why create a secondary wound when it is completely avoidable? I would clean up the roots, apply a good layer of mulch (cotton seed hulls?) and see what happens. It may be next year, or ten years from now if it starts to decline, no one really knows. If you are seriously concerned about it falling on your house now, I would contact a local arborists, they may have a lot of "text book" jargan, but some expert advice would be helpful. Good Luck!
     
  12. gardengnome

    gardengnome Member

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    Thank you all for your advice. I did have 2 people look at my trees, and one said that the trees should recover, however, the other person said that they are as good as dead. I guess, time will show. Once I have some pictures, I'll post them here, it can't hurt to see what other responses I may get. Thank you again.
     
  13. jimmyq

    jimmyq Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    so get a third opinion? and for the record, trees dont 'heal' or 'repair' they seal, or attempt to wall off further damage. Refer to CODIT if anyone wants a more complex answer. More of a terminology issue most likely but I like to pursue the details.
     
  14. Dixie

    Dixie Active Member

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    correct, it is called compartmentalization which is basically walling off the dead or decaying portion of the tree. the damaged part never heals, it is just secluded from the living portion of the tree. people just understand the term 'heal' or 'repair' better than 'seal'. it gets a better visual picture across.
     
  15. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Second guessing and applied hindsight as to what has
    happened to these Magnolias serves no purpose. What
    has gone on with these trees has already been decided
    for us. It is a matter of what do we do next and instead
    of formulating ideas as to what to do and what can be
    done we have to deal with some elements that choose
    to be negative throughout the entire plant restoration
    process.

    Give me enough root system to work with and I can
    save these plants. Which is more important to selectively
    hard prune these trees if need be in order to try to save
    them or let others gripe about it and while on their watch
    see the trees die right before their eyes? I may not like
    the situation but I'll deal with the lousy hand we've been
    dealt here.

    Post some photos of the trees, show us close-ups of
    the root damage if you can and then we can try to
    work on a prospective plan of action to aid the onsite
    arborist if you want to give it a shot in trying to save
    these trees. Thank you Paul for your input in this
    matter. I knew you would come through!

    Jim
     

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