A Brief Primer on Tree Rot

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What Exactly Is Root Rot?

As the name would suggest, root rot refers to the decay of a plant’s root system. The condition occurs in both indoor and outdoor plants, shrubs, and trees. If you discover the source of the root rot early and the root system doesn’t have severe damage, saving your tree is possible. Unfortunately, because the root is under the ground, diagnosing this issue in time to save the tree is often difficult.

What Causes Root Rot in Trees?

Trees will develop root rot for two main reasons: poor drainage that results in oversaturated soil, as well as fungal infections.

When the soil has too much moisture, the roots become too saturated and cannot pull oxygen from the ground. Compacted soil doesn’t allow water to drain away from the root system, which traps moisture around the roots.

Fungal spores are naturally present in soil, but a lack of moisture and nutrients keeps them dormant. When the conditions are ideal, including compacted soil or overwatered trees, the dormant fungal spores begin reproducing. The roots provide another source of nutrients, and the fungus will begin to spread rapidly.

Rhizoctonia, Pythium, Phytophthora, and Armillaria are a few common fungal infections that can cause root rot.

What Are the Symptoms of Root Rot?

Trees suffering from root rot cannot properly absorb the nutrients and minerals they require to thrive from the ground. This is the same reason trees will wilt and suffer serious damage or death during droughts. Here are a few symptoms of root rot to watch for:

  • Poor growth
  • Wilted or brown leaves
  • Smaller than normal leaves
  • Weak and decaying branches
  • Thinner canopy

Severe fungal growth can spread from the roots to the trunk and branches. Root rot can cause cankers, darker sap, and dark bands or lines.

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