In a recent Instagram Reel, a forestry expert shows how trees can literally get mulched to death.
Andrew Conboy (@andrew_the_arborist) is an environmental scientist with a popular Instagram and TikTok page. In a now-viral video, Conboy explains the downsides of destructive “mulch volcanoes.”
Mulch volcanoes are the excessive mulch piles that often surround the bases of trees. And as Conboy explains, they have a number of harmful effects on the environment.
For one, mulch volcanoes harm trees by locking moisture against the tree’s trunk, which can eventually cause a tree to decay, becoming more susceptible to pathogenic fungi, diseases, and insects as it rots.
Conversely, mulch volcanoes can also dehydrate trees. In the summer, the mulch can dry out and repel water away from the plant, preventing moisture from reaching its roots.
This excessive mulching can also smother trees and reduce their ability to take in oxygen — a vital component in cellular respiration. Without oxygen, a tree can’t convert food into energy and continue to grow.
How to avoid mulch volcanoes
This isn’t to say that all mulch around your tree is harmful. In fact, just the right amount makes all the difference.
Proper mulching keeps the root flare — the part of a tree where the trunk transitions into roots — visible rather than buried under mulch. In a healthy tree, the root flare should stay dry and be exposed to oxygen.
The right amount and shape of mulch can also add nutrients to the soil, reducing the competition between trees and grass. Plus, the added layer of protection from mulch can also protect trees from lawnmowers and other equipment.
To keep your precious trees happy and healthy, make sure to remove old mulch before applying a new layer — and skip the mulch volcanoes.
In the comment section of Conboy’s video, many people responded positively. Most were surprised that mulch volcanoes can be so harmful because they’re so prevalent.
“I learned something new. Thank you,” one user wrote.
Others were elated to have an opportunity to hate on mulch volcanoes, knowing their harm. A commenter added that proper mulching “helps prevent girdling roots.”
Girdling roots wrap around the tree trunk below the soil line, eventually strangling the trunk.
Trees are a vital part of our planet as they take in carbon pollution and release cleaner air for us to breathe. They also provide food and shelter for our ecosystems.
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