14 Common Myths About Trees

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Here at South Texas Survey, over our 30 years of tree surveying we’ve heard many misconceptions about trees and best practices of their maintenance. Below we’ve listed 14 common myths and falsities of trees.

Myth 1: Tree roots damage sidewalks

One of the most common myths about trees is that they cause cracks within sidewalks. The truth is a bit more complicated than that. Cracks in sidewalks are a result of engineers using the same sidewalk construction design with an additional disregard for the soil variations and their swell and shrink natures. Tree roots simply follow the gaps created by the heaving and settling of poor pavement.

Myth 2: Planting trees deeply equates to deep roots.

When it comes to planting trees, the best practice is to plant the tree not any deeper than the top of its root ball. Planting trees deeper than they need to be is the number one cause of their death.

Myth 3: Topping trees is healthy

Next to planting too deep, topping trees is the most detrimental thing you can do to a tree. Doing so may possibly cause the tree to go into and shock while also potentially damaging its canopy. Not only this, but it can cause rapid growth that is weak and disfigured, invite entry of insects, and cause disease.

Myth 4: Overwatering trees is okay

If you were to ask urban foresters, many would argue that trees drown from overwatering than they do from drought or lack of water. Watering a tree is primarily only necessary in climates where windy, hot, or dry conditions are dominant. In addition, a newly large planted tree only needs roughly about 10 gallons of water.

Myth 5: Excessive mulch is fine

While it is tree a few inches of mulch is healthy for growth as it suppresses weeds, holds moisture, and protects against extreme temperatures, too much mulch creates disruption of soil moisture and prevents aeration. The best practice is to add mulch overtime but taper off the amount of mulch that is added the closer you get towards the base of the tree.

Myth 6: If it’s on my property, the tree belongs to me.

While it always depends on the town or community ordinance, trees on the street easement or right-of-way actually are property to the city, in most cases, regardless of who planted it. In any event, it’s always important to know who owns the tree in cases of maintenance of the tree and accidents.

Myth 7: Lawnmowers are damaged by surfaced tree roots

This notion is actually a very common falsity. If the tree is healthy and in a good condition, its roots will grow through the soil underground. Surfaced roots are caused by construction and soil that has become compacted.

Myth 8: Fertilizers are great for root growth

Fertilizers primarily are great for stimulating growth of non-woody and short-woody roots. In other situations, fertilizer may cause reduced growth of long roots and mature trees.

Myth 9: Anyone can plant a tree correctly!

Purchasing and planting a tree should be a coordinated effort. From deciding a spot to planting to dedicating maintenance to it, a lot of planning should be done prior to planting the tree. Proper maintenance and pruning of the tree in the first five years will produce a healthy tree with less maintenance costs as it ages.

Myth 10: It is fine to trench and tunnel near trees

Trenching or tunneling near trees is a bad idea, especially if there were no efforts to do a survey of the land or tree. Whether installing fiber optics or burying a sprinkling system, once a tree’s root is cut, it's cut. Roots are how trees get nutrients and what keeps them alive. Prevent damaging trees with trenching or tunneling by detouring around the dripline of trees.

Myth 11: Trees should always be staked after planting

This is another very common falsity. In most cases, trees will actually be stronger if they are not staked. Newly planted trees are strengthened by movement from the win. Stakes are only really necessary if the location the tree is planted is consistently windy. Either way, stakes should be removed at maximum a year's time.

Myth 12: Forest trees don’t need maintenance, so neither do the ones on my property.

In comparison to trees that are undisturbed in their natural setting, urban trees are limited in their areas to root, live in confined spaces, deal with pollution, and have to grow around compacted or poor soil. Trees that are in urban settings need a little additional nurturing to thrive.

Myth 13: Trees can heal wounds.

Trees wounds will not heal. They are not capable of healing damaged tissue. Trees response to damaged areas is to isolate it off from the healthy areas, also known as compartmentalizing or compartmentalization. This isolated area will be within the tree for the remainder of its life. This is why it’s important to not damage trees and be as careful as you can using potentially damaging equipment around them.

Myth 14: Wound dressings will stop tree rot

In the past, wound dressings for trees were thought to help wound closure, protect against insects and diseases, and reduce decay. As of modern day research though, it has been debunked that dressings actually do not help in any way to prevent decay or insect and disease penetration.


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