Trees are a welcome addition to any community space. They help to improve air quality in the area, provide a nice shady spot to sit, and generally add a little bit of color.
Caring for them properly is important to keep them lush and thriving, but a concerning trend has emerged that may be putting trees at risk.
Often referred to as a “mulch volcano,” the issue sees landscapers or ill-informed gardeners piling mulch up against a tree base. While it’s surely intended to encourage health and growth, it might be having the opposite effect.
One Redditor took to the platform to post pictures of a few egregious examples in their neighborhood.
In the images, each of the three trees captured has the offending mound piled up on top of the roots, and the comments section was furious.
“Why are people doing this?” asked one Redditor.
“Yep landscape companies either don’t know any better or [they] just don’t give a damn,” said another.
“Where I live, entire towns are doing this. Even trees in public parks. It’s spreading. We need a viral campaign to stop it,” one user added.
According to the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP), huge piles of mulch around trees can lead to decay, disease, and even the eventual death of the tree.
One of the key signs that mulch is applied way too generously is if secondary roots start appearing from the ground. This is because the existing roots are struggling to get oxygen, and the tree is responding accordingly.
But these roots can dry out quickly in the heat, and if they grow towards the tree stem, they might even strangle the tree.
“I have seen lots of trees that by rights really should be healthy, especially maples, but are in serious decline because of girdling roots,” Greg Jordan, the forester and arborist for the University of New Hampshire Extension, told NALP.
“Once the secondary roots are pruned, the tree can be re-mulched – properly – and it will have a good chance of recovery. Some extra watering to help the tree recover is a good choice, too.”
Otherwise, exposing the root flare and spreading the mulch to a level of at most four inches is a smart way to try to help the at-risk tree. Since mulch volcanoes aren’t an immediate death sentence, rather leading to slow deterioration, there may still be time to save it.
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