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How much root damage can a tree take? Most people mistakenly believe that damaging tree roots will kill the plant. However, the answer is a little more complex as it depends on the extent of the injury to the feeder and structural roots. 

Healthy trees will usually survive harm as long as it is less than one-quarter of the total tree roots. Recovery is less certain when a mature tree sustains significant damage to a greater section, but it may still be possible for it to recover. 

In this post, the Timber Tree Service LLC team, Blaine’s tree service experts, discuss the issue in greater detail. 

How Long Will it Take a Mature Tree to Recover? 

Another determining factor for the question, “How much root damage can a tree take?” is the location. If the injury is at the surface level, the plant may take months or years to recover completely.  

If you harm the feeder roots in the topsoil, the tree may have problems getting enough water and nutrients. It may, therefore, look wilted and slightly sickly. During this time, the tree won’t put out much new growth, focusing instead on re-establishing the roots with soil around them. 

How Do People Damage Roots? 

It is surprisingly easy to cut a root by trenching, digging, or roto-tilling in its vicinity. Many of the injuries we treat occur due to construction projects, such as digging foundations, placing sidewalks, or grading. Plumbers may harm entire trees when digging for sewerage lines. 

Other less common causes include: 

  • Excessive watering leading to weaker growth
  • Lack of nutrients also resulting in weaker growth
  • Using too much salt and killing the root
  • Excessive fertilizing or using the wrong product and burning the wood
  • Repeated droughts causing the tree to cull roots and branches to improve its survival odds
  • Transplanting mature plants  
  • Soil compaction

Trees are resilient but not as resilient as most shrubs and smaller plants. Moving them may be possible with the right advice, but it’s not an amateur project to undertake.  

Symptoms of Root Harm

Understanding more about the symptoms of an injury is as important as learning, ”How much root damage can a tree take?”

The initial signs may be difficult to detect. The symptoms will appear over the entire canopy unless only one side sustained injury. It may take months or years to identify the issue, but look for the following symptoms: 

  • Dying twigs or buds for no apparent reason
  • A general lack of vigor
  • Sparse, wilting, or dying leaves
  • Branch dieback
  • Scorching or out-of-season color changes to leaves

If you suspect an issue, please call us to schedule a consultation as soon as possible. The earlier we begin treatment, the greater the chance of recovery. 

It can take years for trees to get to the point where they show these visible symptoms. Therefore, we recommend you take advantage of our affordable annual maintenance checks to ensure that everything is alright.  

Treatment Options

When renovating your home, consider hiring us before you begin to determine where the root zones are and for advice on how to avoid harming them. 

If it’s too late for this, we can advise you on your treatment plan. However, we must first assess if the tree’s root system can still support its weight. We may recommend trimming branches for better balance. From there, we recommend supporting the tree nutritionally. 

Contact Us Today!

Now that you can answer, “How much root damage can a tree take?” it’s time to learn how to save a damaged tree. Then contact Timber Tree Service LLC at 360-441-5033 to schedule service in Blaine, WA, or the surrounding areas.

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