Q: Bark was stripped from an exposed root. Should I cover it with soil?
Thursday, December 31, 2015
Posted by: Shannon Sperati
Q: I have an 18-year-old pin oak that has a 20-inch diameter trunk base and is about 30 feet tall. Some roots were above ground, hidden under landscape cloth that I just removed. I hit a 10-inch diameter root with the tractor bucket and ripped off a patch of bark about 6 by 8 inches just above dirt level and about a foot away from the trunk. The bark is gone, and the bare wood is exposed. The rip is roughly a square area and does not go clear around the root. Should I try to raise the dirt level to cover and protect the damaged area? Should I leave it exposed to the weather or spray something on it? Will it likely die from this damage? I uncovered the rest of my tree roots by hand, not tractor. I feel bad about this, and I hate landscape cloth even more than I did before.
A: Good for you for working on the landscape cloth removal project! That material alone can often cause its own problems for tree roots. It sounds like the damage from ripping the root bark was not extensive. Pin oaks in good condition are often resilient to minor damages or other stressors. You can either cover the root or leave it exposed. Just make sure not to raise the grade under at least the drip line of the tree more than 2 to 3 inches of any material. If you have more extensive questions or are still concerned, check in with a Consulting Arborist in your area, who can help better diagnose the situation and its considerations in your own back yard.