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Old 14-05-2003, 07:56 AM
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Default Tree Roots (was planting mulberry)

In article , Babberney wrote:
On Mon, 12 May 2003 22:11:45 GMT, Spam Collector

In article , kn125 wrote:
I have a tree growing very close to my house, a neighbour identified
it as a mulberry and said he wouldnt recommend replanting the tree (it
now about 4-5 feet tall and the roots have gone 2-3 ft deep). He said
it attracts lots of bugs. I have some space in my backyard and was
thinking of replanting this tree there. Has anybody had bad/good
experiences with mulberries? Also is it native to this area?


If you value your home's foundation you shouldn't have any trees
growing 'very close' to your house. Even if the roots aren't
large enough to cause damage by themselves, trees suck a lot of
water from the soil and can cause uneven settling especially if
your house is built on some of the expansive soils in the area,


Actually, this is one of those unbeatable myths, largely started by
engineers in England where clay soils are apparently common (search
for "subsidence" if you want to see a ton of stuff about it). In
fact, shaded clay is less likely to lose water to evaporation than
sunny spots, so trees moderate this effect rather than causing it.

Probably true in terms of surface evaporation, but tree roots pull a
lot of water from deeper in the soil. I can show you miles of roads
out in the Southeastern part of the county where the sides of the roads
sink during periods of drought where a tree is growing on the fenceline
and are fine where there are no trees. Maybe coincidence, but I'm not
the only person in the area that has noticed the correlation. Shoddy
road construction is probably a contributing factor, but I don't think
its the only factor.

We tree guys are continually trying to counter the arguments of
construction guys because theya re used to saying "the tree did it"
and getting away with it. They have years of advance propaganda,
which has led to the "common sense" notion that these things must be
true. Another biggie is the "tree heaves sidewalk" angle. Tree roots
don't push outward, they flow into spaces. They are no doubt
contributory--they fill a space, water comes in and freezes, space
expands, root fills it, etc.

So you're saying a root that starts out about the size of a hair can
only grow to be several inches thick if space is created around it?
I have a gate post set in concrete 2' deep that has been moved several
inches over and up. Is it just a coincidence that a tree sprouted less
than a foot away and grew rapidly before it started shifting? Or was it
from water freezing under it when the frost line here in Austin is
probably something less than an inch deep? As trees grow from a seed
or sucker to something 50-100' tall doesn't the soil that used to be
where the large roots are have to have moved somewhere?

But studies have found just as many heaved sidewalks where there are
no trees around to blame. Next time you see this, look at the
concrete. Do you see reinforcements (rebar)? My guess is, you don't.
Bad sidewalks crumble, the installer gets a call, hmm, must be the
tree, cuase we do only the best work.

I'm not saying all heaved sidewalks or foundation problems are tree-
related, most of them probably aren't. But I disagree with saying
none of them are.


As for mulberry trees, I like the small ones in my back yard for the
berries/birds, but I won't ever let them get out of my control. they
are prone to poor structure, they sprout profusely, and they are
fairly short-lived. If you are looking at a spot that is wide open a
spacious, you might go for it, but if this is going to be the one tree
your yard can hold, I'd pick something else.

Keith Babberney
ISA Certified Arborist
For more info about the International Society of Arboriculture, please visit
For consumer info about tree care, visit

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