Maple trees looking sick? Look to the root of the problem
Mother Nature is really starting to show off with orange, red and brown leaves dotting the Plymouth landscape.

"The fall colors are so beautiful," said resident Sharon Jackson as she biked down Vicksburg Lane.

Fall is a week away and the leaves of some maple trees are turning earlier than expected.

"That early fall color, typically to a forester, is going to mean something's wrong," said Plymouth City Forester Paul Buck.

He says the early changing of colors and dropping leaves are signs of a sick tree.

"We call it stem girdling root or SGR."

Buck says it's a man-made problem that mostly likely started some 20 to 30 years ago. He says there are a couple of factors causing the problem: either the tree was grown in a container causing the roots to spiral, or the tree was planted too deep. When the root systems are buried, less oxygen and water is available. This will cause the roots to grow up toward the soil and encircle the tree, eventually choking it.

Root girdling is changing the landscape not only in Plymouth, but across the metro. Over the past few years, many trees were removed. Just to put things into perspective, nearly half of the maple trees along Vicksburg have been removed due to the root problem. 

The only fix is to cut off the girdling root. Buck suggests using a high-pressured water hose to blow away the soil, it will make it easier to spot the bad root. But there's no guarantee removing the girdling root will resolve the problem.

Buck says we can avoid all of this by taking our time to plant correctly.

"We're in a hurry, we plant fast, we don't take that extra time and now we're going to suffer some of those results," said Buck.

Sonya Goins, reporting



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