2.01 – SAFETY FIRST:
Before stepping under any tree canopy perform a quick visual
assessment to make sure there are no obvious loose hanging tree limbs overhead or any large
dead limbs that could fall at any moment. When determined to be safe to step under the canopy
then start with your inspection of the root system.
2.02 – ROOT SYSTEM: Think about is the tree stable from the ground up? What holds the tree
up? The roots, that’s right! So, inspect the ground around the tree looking for changes to the root
zone area. Have you ever heard of the drip line? That is essentially where the tree canopy
extends the furthest outward where if water was “dripping” it would give you a generic visual of
the tree root system. If that root system area inside the drip line is tampered with, for example,
trenching, raising or lowering of the ground or ground compaction, then the tree could be
completely compromised. If the tree is in a low area where the root system stays wet, then fungal
root rot can set in. Is the tree rooted up against a larger tree or some type of impedance that has
kept it from developing an even root system all the way around it? Is there a heave in the ground
where the root system is trying to pull up? Consult with a licensed certified arborist about these
issues to discuss options.
2.03 – HEAVY LEAN: While inspecting the root system go ahead and look up to assess if the
tree has a lean or bend. Assess weight of limbs. Are the limbs one sided? Is there a heave in the
ground where roots are trying to pull up on the backside of the lean? A good indicator of a tree
that is uprooting is that it has a straight trunk but is leaning. A tree that appears to be leaning but
has a bend in the trunk is usually just bending for the sunlight over the years. The leaning issue is
of concern but the bending issue usually not as much of a big deal unless the root system soil is
saturated. If unsure then call a licensed arborist.
2.04 – ROOT FLARE: If the root system or protected root zone is intact, untampered with and
appears normal the next thing to inspect is the root flare. That is the reaction wood around the
base of the tree growing wider as a reaction to forces applied by the wind and gravity. The tree
is building a wider stronger stance. Trees should have a visible flare outward at ground level. If
that is missing, start digging. Look to see if the flare is buried under soil that was brought in or if
runoff erosion is building up or possibly volcano mulching causing the root flare to be buried. If
there is no flare – be aware! Call a licensed certified arborist.