Why Are Tree Roots Important & What Do They Do?

Whenever we humans talk about finding a home, settling down and starting a family, we often use the phrase: “putting down roots”. Of course, this phrase is modelled on the roots of a tree, but what’s the significance? Why are tree roots important & what do they do?

In this article, we’ll talk you through everything you need to know.

What Are the Roots of a Tree?

The roots of a tree are the tendril-like feet of the tree if you will. They don’t bear any nodes; neither do they have any leaves. The roots serve as the base of a tree and just as any strong home or structure needs a solid base, a tree requires the same.

Of course, we all know that a tree’s roots are vital, but what is it about them that makes them so important?

Put it this way: without the roots, a tree wouldn’t survive. Without a healthy root system, a tree will be more susceptible to diseases and toppling over – both of which are not ideal outcomes. But let’s take a closer look at how the roots of a tree serve it:

The Roots of a Tree Absorb Water, Nutrients, and Minerals

Trees are living beings and just like us, they need sufficient water, minerals, and nutrients to survive. The tree’s roots are essential in the acquisition of these important things and it does so by absorbing them through the soil.  

A tree’s roots will absorb water, nutrients, and minerals from the soil and into the stem. From there, these goodies are then passed around throughout the tree ensuring that all of the essential “parts” get what they need (not so dissimilar to our veins and arteries channelling blood throughout our bodies).  

This is another reason why it is important that the soil around your tree is healthy and has plenty of goodness packed into it. If a tree doesn’t have healthy soil, then the roots will struggle to absorb the necessary things that it needs to thrive.

The Roots of a Tree Store Food and Nutrients

Not only do the roots of a tree absorb all of the necessary water and nutrients that it needs to stay alive, but they will also store any excess for future use. This is most prevalent during the winter months when nutrients are in scarce supply. It’s not so dissimilar to the way that bears store fat during hibernation to see them through the winter until spring.

The Roots of a Tree Serve as a Means of Anchoring It to the Earth

If it weren’t for a tree’s roots, during the slightest bit of wind, forests would be flying all over the place. Roots not only feed the tree and provide it with plenty of nutrients and minerals, but it also serves as an anchor, harbouring it to the earth. Naturally, the stronger a tree’s root system, the better the foundation. This is of course crucial because the last thing you need is to wake up one morning after a heavy storm, only to find your favourite tree has been torn out of the ground and planted itself firmly on your neighbour’s roof!

There are two classifications of root systems for a tree: the fibrous ‘tendril-like’ roots and the taproot.

  • The taproot has one or more main roots that are large and plummet directly down into the earth – and often have slightly smaller side roots stemming from them.
  • The fibrous root system exists in a tree’s root system which has been well-established and thus branched out into many thin roots spreading further afield. Fibrous roots often have small “hair-like” roots on them that look similar to the human nervous system.

The Roots of a Tree Will Compete with Other Plants

Tree roots will often compete for territory with other trees and plants to secure as much water and nutrients as possible. The strongest and fastest of root systems will be the ones that dominate and thrive. That being said – it’s not uncommon for some species of tree to connect with and support other root systems to share resources.

Having a strong and healthy root system for your tree is paramount and can also allow your tree sufficient room to expand (and is also great at ensuring that few to no weeds pop up and begin to grow above them).

Are the Roots of Your Tree Healthy?

It’s always worth regularly checking up on your tree and ensuring that it’s in good health. The sooner you spot any potential problems; the better chance you’ll have at remedying the situation.

A common tell-tale sign of a root system suffering is white fungi growing, or any other form of slow-growth. You should also keep an eye out for mushrooms growing at the base of a tree, or any yellowing leaves.

Of course, if you aren’t quite sure when in doubt, contact a reputable local arborist to assist you.

If you think you may have an issue with the root system of your tree, then please do not hesitate to contact us today. We will gladly send one of our expert arborists out to your property to assess the situation and advise you accordingly.

We hope that you have found this article helpful and wish you the best of luck with keeping your trees happy and healthy.

Read our blog post about the different parts of a tree and how they function


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