Copyright 1999, National Gardening Association.
All Rights Reserved.

For questions regarding this web site, contact Webmaster

Roots as Anchors  

Roots have the enormous task of securing the plant in the ground--through wind and rain and snow and dark of night! Imagine the force of a strong wind blowing through a huge tree, and you can imagine the incredible strength of the roots keeping it upright. A hurricane may take out hundreds of trees--but think of the thousands still standing!

Plants have adapted different approaches to anchoring themselves. Root systems can be classified into two types. A fibrous root system consists of many relatively thin, highly branched, spreading roots. Familiar plants with fibrous roots include tomatoes and grasses. A taproot consists of one of more large main roots with smaller side roots; examples include carrots and beets.

Root Systems

c1w1-f.gif (11181 bytes)

Fibrous roots tend to be concentrated near the surface of the soil; they anchor the plant through an extensive network of fine roots. Some plants have particularly extensive root systems. For example, if all the fibrous roots of a single mature grass plant were laid end to end, they might go on for 100 miles or more! Because of this characteristic, these plants are usually good at controlling erosion.

Plants with taproots take a different approach. Taproots grow straight down, rather than spreading along the surface. They can grow to enormous depths--some trees' taproots reach down thirty feet or more, anchoring the tree securely in place.

Like stems, roots can become woody, providing strong anchors for trees and shrubs.

 
 thumb2.gif (9272 bytes)

Getting to the Root
Tree root systems are typically broad and shallow. The roots of a mature tree may extend well beyond the spread of its branches.  A tree's fine, water-absorbing roots are concentrated near the soil's surface. (Anchoring roots may go deeper.)

When caring for landscape trees, apply water and fertilizer in a wide band extending to or beyond the dripline.

If you focus your efforts right at the base of the trunk, you'll miss most of the water- and nutrient-absoring fine roots.

 

 


btns_nav.gif (2368 bytes)