Q: My expensive new coral bark maple is rapidly dying. I dug around the trunk and took pictures for you. Could a root be strangling the tree?
A: Yes, I think circling roots are the main culprit. I can see one right at the base of the tree.
My observation is that maple trees of all kinds can have circling roots. It can be caused by rooted cuttings being incompletely pushed down into a pot for growing or by a root breaking off close to the trunk.
Roots resprout just like tree limbs do. If a sprout heads off at a right angle while still close to the bottom of the tree, it is hard to detect. But as the tree grows larger and the root increases in diameter, it begins pressing on the bottom of the trunk. The pressure eventually limits the amount of food that goes to that side of the tree. One side of a tree will “Just not look right.”
There is not much you can do at this point. I’d replace the tree. If the nursery where you bought it offers a 1 year guarantee (most good ones do) point out the problem and get a healthy replacement.
Be sure to excavate around the base of the new tree to make sure all of the roots are headed in the right direction.
strangling root on oak
proper distribution of roots