Zone 2: The ground surrounding the roots and base of the tree, and up the trunk 3 feet

There are two types of tree roots. The most visible are the large anchoring (structural) roots, which hold up the tree. The smaller and invisible absorbing roots provide the tree with water and nutrients from the soil. Even a tree that appears strong and vibrant with foliage can have serious root problems. Examine the base of the trunk and the ground around the bottom of a tree. It’s here that you may find your first evidence of root problems or other hazards.

  • Pull back any ivy, mulch, or ground cover and look closely where the trunk meets the ground. If you see cracked or raised soil, the tree may be in the process of uprooting.
  • Do you see fungus (mushrooms) on or near the tree's roots or trunk? Fungus is a strong indicator of root or trunk decay. And when a tree’s anchoring roots are rotting, decayed, or cut, the tree is at risk of falling over. If too much of the trunk is decayed, it can buckle or break. Note: Some of the fungi you will see in our photos are specific to the eastern part of the United States. Check with a local arborist to identify mushrooms in your art of the country.

Uprooting, root rot, and decay at the base of a tree can be very dangerous situations which require immediate attention. Call a Certified Arborist to help you determine whether the tree needs to be removed or whether it's safe to leave it standing.

Other things to look for in your Zone 2 inspection:

  • Deep cavities (openings in the tree) near the ground are a bad sign. The tree could collapse if the trunk is missing too much wood at the ground.
  • Are there dead branches on the ground? If so, there will likely be more up in the tree, especially if your tree has never been cleaned out by a tree care professional. Hesitate before you walk under the tree if the ground is littered with dead branches. An arborist will usually spot dead branches you didn’t notice.
  • Do you see coarse or fine sawdust (also called "frass") at the base of a tree? If so, the tree is either hosting a colony of carpenter ants, or it is getting attacked by borers (small beetles). If there are carpenter ants, you've got a problem, as these insects only nest in dead wood. A borer invasion will usually kill the tree, though in some species it may be possible to save the tree if the insects are caught and treated early on. When you see frass, call a Certified Arborist to find out why it's there and what it means for your tree.
  • Raised sections or cracks in the driveway or sidewalk caused by a tree's roots pose a risk to pedestrians. These need to be repaired so people don't trip or fall. Consult a Certified Arborist to learn how you can save your tree's roots while addressing the problem.
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