Tree – Brought Down by Snow

Q: One of our pecan trees was brought down by wet snow this winter. Can we save this tree?

A: I don’t have good news.

You can already see the broken roots on the “heaved” side of the tree. What’s not so obvious are the broken roots underground on the buried side. Although not quite as brittle as aboveground limbs, buried roots will snap when bent. That is doubtless what has happened in your case.

I don’t think there is any way in the world to save the tree…the damage to the roots is too great.

I notice that the roots that are exposed don’t show a very wide “pancake” of root zone. This leads me to believe that the tree was growing in a lawn and that grass was growing under the tree. Grass is a terrible competitor with tree roots. It scavenges most of the water and nutrients that a tree needs to make a wide-spreading and firmly-anchored root system.

When you replace the tree, never let grass grow under the branches of the new one.

(but see note below)

I was interested in your answer about the fallen pecan tree. The same thing happened to me about 10 years ago when a small tornado came through my property in Polk County. At the time it fell it was winter, and I didn’t have a saw big enough to cut it or the inclination to go out of my nice, warm house. In the spring, while cleaning up out near the tree, I noticed it was budding. I left it alone to see what would happen and now 10 years later it the most beautiful tree! My daughter and her friends love to climb on it, and it makes a great bench! We even got a load of nuts before the squirrels did this year. Michael M.

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