|A GIRDLING ROOT...|
|ABOUT FIVE FIVE FEET FROM THE TRUNK...|
|OF THIS FIFTEEN YEAR OLD 'AUTUMN BLAZE' MAPLE...|
|...A HYBRID MAPLE NOTED FOR ITS FALL COLOR|
Girdling roots can occur on any plant, and can be very damaging depending upon their location. They are the result of a lateral root or roots "taking a wrong turn" and wrapping around another root or a portion of the trunk or stem of the plant. The diversion from lateral is most often caused by being kept in a pot too long, or some injury, or perhaps hitting a rock or other obstruction.
Roughing up the twisted roots of a plant that has been kept in a pot too long, or scarring them with a sharp knife, is a typical procedure when planting or transplanting everything from annuals to large trees, and the prevention of girdling roots is the main reason for removing wire baskets from large trees when they come from the nursery.
Girdling roots can greatly damage or even kill trees, sometimes years after transplanting. In this case the girdling root will probably not really damage the tree, but its strangling effect on the larger root is quite obvious, and it is a good example of the problem. If this girdling root were in a spot where I considered it might be really harmful I would remove it with a hammer and sharp chisel. If left too long, a girdling root will graft to its victim and be impossible to remove without doing damage.