mycelium (1)

Big Tree? Be sure to look down!

While it is natural for us to look up and perceive the tree from above ground, an even more impressive portion is below ground. Think of the first tree you drew, did it even have any roots? "The roots within the dripline of a tree are estimated to have 2.5 to 4.5 times more surface area than do the leaves (one side) of the tree according to Richard Harris in the Journal of Arboriculture (18:1, January 1992). More recently, it has been discovered that the ideal ratio of root to leaf surface area for photosynthesis is 10 to 1! Because most roots are veiled by a layer of soil we simply cannot properly conceive them in our minds without some serious intention. Upon closer examination we see a massive network of subterranean and superterranean organs that interfaces with the soil and mycorrhizae to absorb water, oxygen (from pore space) and minerals creating the engine for photosynthesis. Most of us know that the mushroom is simply the fleshy fruit of a huge network of roots or mycelium. Similarly, the portion of a tree above ground is the fuel to run the engine. Like us, trees are mostly water, and that water delivery system starts in the soil. A seed starts with the roots that snake through the earth absorbing water and elements to sprout the beginning of the tree above ground. For trees, our understanding of their full structure, including that below, is essential for their health. Too often, particularly in urban areas, roots are trenched, compacted, and removed without the full understanding of its impact on the whole tree. The misunderstanding is acerbated by trees' ability to store energy and live, albeit compromised, for years after the point of contact. While looking up is exhilarating, it is important to remember the heart of the mater is beneath our feet.

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