Occasionally, the first sign of a problem with a tree is that it just falls over onto the ground. The roots are flipped into the air and the tree is in bad shape. Unless you can immediately stand it back up, cover the roots and stake it, the tree is a goner. Of course, you can only do this with small trees unless you happen to have a large crane handy.

Reasons for an otherwise apparently tree to fall over would include:

  1. Root Rot - Certain primarily fungal diseases can cause the loss of roots. Since one of the key jobs of the root is to hold the plant in place, the tree can fall over if enough of them are lost. More on root rots...

  2. Severed Roots - Construction in the root zone of a tree might weaken the root system enough to cause the tree to fall over. Trenching for utility pipes, excavation for basements, etc. can also be a problem. Sometimes the results of the root loss may not show up for years.

  3. Shallow Roots - Some tree species such as maples (Acer), are naturally shallow rooted. When these and other types are planted in hard, heavy clay soil, the root systems may struggle to penetrate into the ground. They form very shallow roots that do not have the ability to keep the tree stable.

  4. Unestablished Root System - Newly planted trees, especially larger specimens, take some time to establish a stable root system. If they are subjected to high winds, these trees may be more easily tipped over than when they get their roots system fully expanded. You may need to stake trees for a year to avoid this when moving larger trees to a windy site.

  5. Wet Soils - Trees that routinely sit in standing water or on sites where a sudden flood has occurred may be more likely to topple. Seriously saturated soils may have a lower ability to anchor the tree.

  6. Storms - Although some trees weakened by the factors listed above will just topple over on a nice, calm day, most trees will fall in a storm. Severe wind and/or ice storms may bring down healthy trees too.


Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


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