The client has 3 cherry trees in his front yard, and he wondered why they were not growing at the same rate. He also noticed wounds on the trees that were not closing. The wounds turned out to be nectria cankers (a fungus disease). The trees varied a lot in size, even though the same age. All three trees had soil piled against the trunk and no visible trunk flare. I couldn’t pull the soil away because ornamental grass was planted in it. There were no other obvious health problems above ground, so I suggested we blow away the soil from the base of the trunks and look for root system problems. Today the crew went to the property and did just that. Using the airspade, they blew away the soil mounds and found roots encircling all the trunks. This is surely the limiting factor for growth, and the stress from the trees’ reduced ability to conduct water and sugar reduces their ability to resist the nectria infection. Ricky called me to ask my advice about cutting the girdling roots. What needed to be done was really radical surgery, and he was a little timid about it. After all, we want to “first do no harm.” So he sent me photos from his smart phone and I looked at them on my computer. I reassured him that it was ok to cut the big roots. Although the surgery would seem radical, there is no way the trees could live to be old without it. By the way – the big girdling roots in the perfect circle are probably the result of the tree having been raised in a pot.
Update: Additional photos the crew sent me –