One homeowner’s bizarre landscaping choice came under fire when a neighbor snapped a photo to share on Reddit.
“I saw this on my Sunday walk,” they said in their post on r/arborists. “Does the tree survive?”
The photo showed an established tree about a foot wide. A concrete driveway had been poured into the area around the tree, leaving only a small, circular opening for the trunk that was filled with gravel. The tree itself looked healthy — for now.
“Does the tree survive?” the original poster asked. “If not, how long till you see the side effects? Would it survive if there was a drip line installed under the concrete?”
Commenters confirmed the original poster’s instinct: The tree was doomed. “No, it’s not going to survive because tree root systems need not only water, but also nutrients and oxygen,” one commenter explained. “More than half of the roots for this tree have been paved over. It will definitely happen sooner than later.”
“Absolute death sentence,” another user said. “Usually with construction related root damage and compaction, a tree will die in five to seven years. I’d say this one goes quicker.”
It’s easy to underestimate the importance of air for a tree’s roots. We think of them as being made to be covered, anchor the tree, and absorb nutrients from the soil. But the root flare — the area where the trunk widens out and connects to the main roots — isn’t designed to be covered, as Royce’s Tree Service explains.
Many experts and gardeners have spoken out against covering a tree’s root flare and exposed roots, such as by volcano mulching. The practice can lead to girdling, an extremely damaging condition in which the tree’s own roots wrap around its trunk.
If the tree does die, that’s a major loss for the homeowner, since mature trees increase home values. They also provide shade and help purify the air, which is good for people and the environment.
One commenter did offer a glimmer of hope for the tree. “Either the tree or the driveway will survive, but not both,” they joked.
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