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Silver birch roots

Last post 18-01-2005 9:45 AM by Arabella Sock. 9 replies.

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  • 16/01/2005 10:41 AM
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    Can anyone tell me what the likely root span of a silver birch (betula pendula) is? I've searched on the web but have only managed to find likely height and branch span and the fact they are shallow rooted whatever that means. thanks. Rhoda

  • 16/01/2005 02:37 PM
    • Obelix
    • Belgium
    • 24 Nov 2004
    • 442
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    Shallow rooted means they don't produce a long main tap root but many shorter fibrous roots. The general rule with trees and shrubs is that the roots extend as far and wide as the canopy.

    Obelix - Belgium
  • 17/01/2005 09:57 AM
    • William
    • 24 Nov 2004
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    I think the height of the groundwater level also influences the spread of the root system. Not being able to grow deep they tend to spread more (stability and food)

    Happy Gardening, William
    (Netherlands)
  • 17/01/2005 11:11 AM
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    Thank you both that is very helpful. The reason I am asking is that my neighbour planted one a few years ago about 15 inches from our somewhat fragile flint boundary wall. The wall is cracking in that area and is becoming unstable and I believe the roots may be causing this and it will get worse as the tree grows. Would I be right in thinking that a tree with a tap root might be better as the root would go straight down rather than sideways? Rhoda

  • 17/01/2005 11:25 AM
    • William
    • 24 Nov 2004
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    Hi Rhoda, To be honest, I don't think planting any tree that close to this wall is a very good idea. Even a tree with a taproot has roots that go sideways (e.g an oak grows with a taproot) but a 15 inch distance to the wall is not very much, in the end the tree will get thicker and more massive too.

    Happy Gardening, William
    (Netherlands)
  • 18/01/2005 08:03 AM
    • Obelix
    • Belgium
    • 24 Nov 2004
    • 442
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    Planting a tree that close to a wall is bound to cause problems, regardless of the root system. They take up an enormous amount of water from the soil and thus can cause destabilising of the foundations. Over here there are laws about this to avoid neighbourly problems. Hedges must be planted at least 50cms from boundaries and trees at least 2 metres. It may be worth having a word with your neighbour about moving it whilst it is still young enough to cope or coppicing it to reduce damage. You could also have a word with your local council environment officer for advice as they may prefer to sacrifice the tree to save the wall and you should also check your insurance status for repairs and rebuilding of the wall.

    Obelix - Belgium
  • 18/01/2005 08:20 AM
    • William
    • 24 Nov 2004
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    Hi Obelix, I'm not quite sure a beech likes being coppiced very much,it could be. But I doubt if that will be a real solution in the long run. The stump will still get very thick and produce some thick roots too..

    Happy Gardening, William
    (Netherlands)
  • 18/01/2005 09:21 AM
    • Obelix
    • Belgium
    • 24 Nov 2004
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    It's a birch, not a beech. i have a friend who has the tops of hers trimmed every three years to keep them in bounds and reduce wind resistance. Being shallow rooted, they are prone to being toppled by strong winds and her suburb suffered a devastating tornado a few years ago so she is wary. And if it was a beech it would be fine to coppice it. They make hedges after all and it's a similar process. What did you put in your wildlife design then?

    Obelix - Belgium
  • 18/01/2005 09:40 AM
    • William
    • 24 Nov 2004
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    Hi Obelix, I meant to say that I wasn't sure about the combination of birch and coppicing. Got me trees mixed up..... I kept the design quite down to earth. And it didn't have to be a wildlife garden but an ecofriendly garden. So I wen't fo a design on clayish wet soil with high groundwater levels. Using trees and shrubs that like these conditions - Willows (twisted and straigh up - for contrast and winter color) a syringa several viburnums (berries) hydrangea and rhododendrons (hiding and nesting) woven willow fences overgrown with ivy (berries honey and nestingspace) Pergolas made of well cured but untreated beech poles. (Locally grown and a product from coppicing and pollarding like the willow fence) a patio laid in brick - made in Holland so no transportation cost and pollution. A rather large pond (doubling as a sink hole) with grasses (seeds) irisses foxgloves. And for along the pergola's a rose, honeysuckles, wisteria and some clematis. All completed with the odd holly, dogwood, bamboo and groundcovering plants an ornament and some reclamed tubs for planting things with a seasonal interest or things that don't like the wet clay. So not very adventurous in introducing new plants that can survive in our warmer and wetter conditions... The basic idea was / is using material that can be grown /made locally and using (mainly local) plants that provide some food and shelter for wildlife and will be quite happy without chemical healthcare.

    Happy Gardening, William
    (Netherlands)
  • 18/01/2005 09:45 AM
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    Thank you both - and the good news is that after my OH went round for a man-to-man talk with the neighbour on Saturday, yesterday the tree was taken away! This is such a relief to me as I have been stressing about it for the last two years as it also shaded the evening light (the nicest time of day) from my patio. Gentle requests to the neighbour who is quite elderly had been turned down as he had planted the tree specially for someone who has now died, so the situation was rather delicate. The laws about boundary plantings in this country really need to be revised as they seem to be one of the biggest causes of friction with neighbours. When the silver birch was planted I did express my concern it was too close to the wall but the neighbour told me it was a small tree and that he would keep it small. Neither of those things happened and if we hadn't cut back the branches which hung over to our side of the wall at least a third of it would have been over our garden. Of course cutting back the tree ruined the look of it. Anyway its gone and I am really pleased as I thought we might have more of a battle on our hands (which was why I was asking about the roots as I thought we might need to back up our claims that they could be damaging the wall) and I didn't want things to turn unpleasant. So thanks again. Rhoda