- Author: Ben Faber
A trunk "below grade", that is a buried trunk, is a problem for most trees. Willows and other riparian trees along water ways that are inundated regularly can adapt to a change in soil depth around their trunks. That's not true of most of our commercial tree species, and avocados and citrus are really susceptible to buried trunks/stems. they asphyxiate. This can be a very common problem at planting when a hole is too deep and the new tree settles in the loosen earth and gradually the stem is buried. Or, when the grower is doing the "right thing" and using an organic planting mix that gradually decomposes and the tree settles into the ground and the crown is covered by dirt. The tree then starts looking bad - leaves yellow. The canopy defoliates. All the while, the grower is putting on more water and more fertilizer and the tree looks worse and worse. Remove the soil from around the base, and voila, in a few months the tree is happy again. If the dirt isn't moved, the stressed tree is now susceptible to root rots, both Phytophthora and Armillaria. Those problems are a lot worse than just lack of air.
This suffocation is a common problem after flooding. Dirt from higher up moves into lower positions, gravity moving dirt can move a lot. It accumulates around the base of the tree. The grower is preoccupied with other things that occur with flooding and does nothing. A few months later, the trees start turning yellow especially when the weather warms up and they are more active and more water is being applied. Flooding can also spread disease organism from other areas that are contaminated. Oak root fungus is frequently spread in flooding waters, especially in the lower positions in little valleys.
Pulling that accumulated soil away from tree is important for tree health. It's something that needs to be done soon after the flooding incident, or any event that buries the tree trunk.