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Big-leafed update

Last week I drove past the Paulownias I wrote about in 2009, and realized that they deserved another blog post.  In the four years since that post, all three trees have shot up.  

I kept trying to shoot an image with the two paired trees in it, minus the utility lines, but it wasn’t doable without risking life and limb.  The trees have grown higher than the house and the utility lines, and have easily tripled (at least) in size.

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Two paulownias planted four years ago now shade almost the entire front yard.

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The smaller of the two trees measures perhaps 12″ DBH.  The once-sunny walkway is now almost entirely shaded.

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It’s a little tricky to see, but the right-hand tree is larger than the one to the left.  Directly behind it stands a large Japanese maple; in the 2009 post you can see the maple’s fall color, and compare its trunk size to the now-towering Paulownia’s. 

Air-tool transplanting is continuing here in Massachusetts; while it hasn’t yet become commonplace, arborists in this part of the world are conversant with the techniques, and some firms have been routinely been moving trees bare-root for the last few years.  Leahy Landscaping of Lynn, MA, has a team of transplanters, led by Mass. Certified Arborist Bob Dobias.  Bob recently sent me some photos of a project his crew carried out this past summer; they moved a beautiful 14′ Fastigiate Beech in Salem with air.  They relocated the tree from a location right next to a building to a spot further out on the property, where it can now grow to its full potential.  Here are the pix Bob sent:

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This tree has been growing nicely next to a condo entry, but was likely planted there when it was a much smaller specimen.

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Bob has exposed the topmost roots, and is working his way underneath the root mass.  Note that he’s wearing ear protection and has dust barriers set up around the work area.

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Fastigiate Beech is a narrow tree, and while a blowout to the dripline frees most of the roots, some root mass still had to be cut.  Bob reports that his crew cut one root that was growing under the driveway.

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Nice root mass on this tree.  The time had arrived for this tree to be transplanted; notice that the roots to the right are shorter and have been redirected down by the presence of the building wall.  A tree that grows for too long this close to a wall might not be as readily moved as this one — not because it can’t be dug out, but because the root mass has grown too asymmetrically for the tree to stand well away from the wall.

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The Beech being introduced to its new home.  According to Bob, the crew could have lifted the tree by hand, but decided to use the machine to minimize hazards to it.  For the actual move, they tied the tree to the forks; this shot, it has been untied and is being guided into the planting hole.

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And from a different angle.  The hole receiving it could be a bit wider, to make the backfilling and mudding in easier, especially as there are no obstructions around it.

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With the tree placed in its new home and backfilled, the crew waters and muds it in.  Leahy added better loam for backfill, and secured the tree with duckbills, to insure stability while it grows into the new location.

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Proud Leahy crew and Fastigiate Beech.  The Beech should now be able to grow a little fuller both above and below ground on the side that had faced the building.  The transplant operation took about six hours from start to finish.

Bob reports that the tree has experienced some stress from the move, but he expects it will equilibrate crown and root growth and leaf out well next year.  We’ll keep an eye out for more pix next year, to check its progress.

Fastigiate Beech moved by:

Leahy Landscaping, Lynn, MA

Arborist in charge:  Bob Dobias, MCA

Crew:  Alfredo Esteban, Shane Corcoran, Greg Beatrice

 

 

 

Katsura update

Last February I wrote about the bare-root transplant of a large Katsura tree (Cercidophyllum japonicum) at UMass, beautifully executed by the pros at Foti Landscape and Tree. Matt Foti just sent me a photo he took last week of the tree, which has settled into its new home nicely.

Though the crew kept a large slug of soil under the tree’s butt for the move, Matt told me that they did some excavation at the root flare, as they always do, to check for girdling, circling, or damaged roots. (I hadn’t noticed the excavation when I first saw the transplant photos, but if you click back to that post you’ll notice it.) The crew found a girdling root and removed it — and clearly, from this current photo, the tree didn’t skip a beat.

Even in a backlit shot on a very hot day this tree is looking happy.

Even in a backlit shot on a very hot day this tree is looking happy.

ImageLearn when to hire a pro for your home landscape at Scott McPhee’s Elm Bank workshop.  Photo courtesy of Bert_M_B via Flickr.

In the shrub pruning class I teach at the New England Wild Flower Society some student always asks me about pruning trees.  Unless we’re talking about nipping up the end of a low-hanging branch, or working on a small ornamental tree, for the safety of both tree and owner I usually recommend hiring a professional arborist to do the work.  For those who have questions about when to know what’s easily and safely done by Joe or Sally Homeowner, and what ought to be taken care of by an arborist, Scott McPhee of Hartney Greymont will give a talk this coming Thursday, July 11, called Trees In the Home Landscape.

Scott will discuss the tasks can be easily and safely accomplished by a homeowner, the tasks that really require a pro, and how to tell the difference.  An expert Hartney crew will demonstrate on a standing tree some of the principles that Scott is discussing, and then will demonstrate the tree’s removal.  It should be an excellent talk.

Location: Elm Bank, the headquarters of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society, in Wellesley, MA.

Date:  July 11, 2013

It’s that time of year again!  This Friday is Arbor Day across America, and for Massachusetts arborists it’s the Arbor Day of Service.  Arbor Day of Service is a program developed by the Mass. Arborists Association several years ago.  For it, the MAA “partners with local tree wardens, community leaders, and civic organizations to identify worthy projects in need of professional tree care”.  Tree companies and individual arborists pick the project they want to participate in, and donate their time to plant, prune, and care for trees on the selected sites.  It’s a great program; various organizations which otherwise might not be able to carry out the needed work at one time benefit from the Arbor Day of Service blitz approach, and the arborists team with one another to give back to their communities.   Last year the arborists donated over $250,000 in services in that one day to the communities and organizations they chose.

To read more about Arbor Day itself, check out the Arbor Day Foundation website.  To find out more about the MAA’s Arbor Day of Service, take a look at the MAA website, which also has a signup sheet if you’re a member and haven’t yet put your name in to work on one of this year’s projects.

The two projects I’m most aware of this year are at Tower Hill Botanic Garden in Boylston, MA (worth visiting whether you’re there to do pruning or tree care or just to enjoy the site and gardens) and at Boston Common, one of the nation’s oldest common open spaces.

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I suspect this Boston Common pruning took place some time before the MAA started the Arbor Day of Service.   Still, it’s good to see the tradition circle back to the Common…

This year’s New England Grows featured a talk by Jim Flott, who discussed the bare-root transplanting of large trees.  Jim talked about root-washing, something he has studied, practiced, and taught, on his own and with the late Bonnie Appleton of Virginia Tech.  He spoke about the history of bare-root transplanting — until the middle of the 1900s bare-rooting was the primary way to transplant trees — and about bare-rooting with air tools.  It was a great presentation; this abstract by Flott and Appleton covers a lot of the territory Jim discussed, and it’s worth a read.

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Bare-root transplant with air tools — 12″ caliper London Plane tree, moved in late July 2009 in Wellesley, MA.

After Jim’s talk in one of the large auditoriums, he moved to a smaller room for an ‘Speaker Unplugged’ session, where people could ask him questions and exchange information.   As had happened at New England Grows three years ago, when Matt Foti discussed bare-root transplanting with air tools, someone asked about the effects of bare-root transplanting on a tree’s taproot.

How does bare-root transplant affect a taprooted tree?  The answer, both from Jim and from Matt, is that taproots are rarely an issue.

A taproot typically forms when a seed germinates; the baby taproot emerges first from the seed, growing down and anchoring the seed in the soil.  Next, the cotyledon shoot emerges and grows upward.  As the cotyledon starts to photosynthesize, root hairs branch out from the taproot, and the root volume grows and spreads.  The depth of roots is determined in part by available moisture and in part by soil type.  Typically, organic soils — which hold water and allow good cation exchange — rest at the top of the soil profile; mineral soils underlie the organic horizons, and are much less hospitable to roots.  Here in New England soils may be quite thin, and are often underlain with rock.

So taproots here will serve that useful anchoring function early in a tree’s life, but soil conditions and the plant’s own tendencies will promote the outward, rather than the downward growth of a tree.  In fact, the overall growth of tree roots tends to be outward, rather than down; the old image of a root mass volume and form mirroring a tree’s crown volume and form has been proven false.

We know that trees tend to develop their roots in the top 18″ of soil; the larger the tree, the deeper that zone may go, but typically it extends no more than 3 or 4 feet below grade.  Some thick roots on very large trees may extend vertically down in this zone, if soil conditions permit, but many more run horizontally away from the tree’s trunk.  The anchoring function of that original taproot, if it remains, is replaced by the anchoring provided by a much broader and more extensive mass of roots growing out and (to a much less extent) down.

As I wrote in an earlier post (with thanks to Linda Chalker-Scott for its title):

It’s helpful to keep in mind another factor when thinking about taproots and transplanting trees.  More often than not, a large tree being transplanted was planted out years earlier as a B&B plant, or possibly moved into place with a tree spade.  Both methods would have cut any taproot in the initial planting.  When the end of a root is cut, the tree tends to send shoots out from just above the cut end.  In a vertically oriented root, the new shoots are apt to extend horizontally from the cut end, and feeder roots would similarly extend out horizontally.  The situation may well be different for a tree that has grown from seed in one place, that someone now wants to transplant bare root, but for most landscape trees the taproot issue is moot — whatever taproot may have existed when the tree seed germinated has already been cut, and the tree has adjusted for its loss.


A carrot grows downward, with rootlets out to the side and foliage above ground. A tree is not a carrot. Photo by obenson in Flickr.

This beech tree was moved last fall, having been transplanted once about 20 years ago. See how the root mass extends far out horizontally, with a relatively shallow depth.

This is one of the thickest roots extending vertically from the beech’s trunk. This root was cut in the earlier (20 years previous) transplant; note the resultant root growth just above the cut.

 

Moving maturity

Last fall Matt Foti‘s excellent crew moved a mature Katsura tree (Cercidiphyllum japonicum) on the UMass campus in Amherst.  Jim Flott showed one photo of the tree in his New England Grows presentation last week, to illustrate the breadth of a root mass; take a look here to see what it looked like during and after the soil blowoff.

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Notice the trench dug around the entire root mass.  Typically, the crew uses a line tied to the trunk to swing and mark the edge of trench at the tree’s dripline.  If really significant roots appear once the first buckets of soil have been dug, the crew can decide to shift the trench edge outward to save more roots in the blowoff.  Alternatively, if no roots are found that far out from the trunk, the excavator can dig closer in to the trunk until roots appear, and the trench placed at that diameter out from the trunk.

Plywood is visible to the left of the photo; soil is blown into the trench for removal, but plenty of soil and dust fly around, and the plywood barriers help contain it, and keep the surrounding site cleaner.  The soil pile behind the plywood is what has been excavated to form the trench.

According to Matt, this tree is 20″ dbh, with a 22-24′ wide root mass.  The crew blew it off in one day, and moved it about 2,000′ away the next day.

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One of the benefits of air tool work like this is the fact that roots become visible, and it becomes clear how a tree grows below the soil surface.  The roots here obviously cover a huge area, and their density and branching suggest resilience and vitality.

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Notice how much soil remains around the base of the tree.  Leaving a slug of soil makes it easier to place the tree level in its new location, at the correct depth.  The crew usually blows soil first from the root tips, and works back toward the trunk, always blowing soil toward the trench.  The circular track around the tree’s trunk was made by the crew toward the end of the blowout, as they worked their way around the tree.  Pigtails of roots are held off the ground with lines tied back to tree branches well-padded with burlap.

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Katsura en route to its new home on the UMass campus.  Interesting to note how dense and finely branched the tree’s crown is, especially in light of how dense and finely branched the root system is.

Stay tuned for more photos of this tree in the next few months, when we get some followup shots after it has leafed out.

Location:  University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA

Moved by:  Matthew R. Foti Landscape & Tree Service, Inc.

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