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Circling roots caused the lean

This tree (right photo) leaned severely after tropical storm force winds. The cause was lack of roots on one side of the tree, the left side in this case. The lower left photo shows that a large root (about one inch diameter) was circling near the surface. This developed in the nursery container in which the tree was growing. Few roots are produced from the outer surface of a circling root. This can result in one-sided root systems and unstable trees.

Treatment: Severe the circling root just before it makes an abrupt 90 degree turn and begins to circle. Cut other roots that were twisted or cracked or broken because these defects can cause weakness as the tree grows larger. Since there was one root circling the top of the root ball I would suspect that there were others. I would want to find these and cut them as well. You might end up essentially replanting the tree. Stake the tree and treat it as a transplanted tree for a year or more until it is firm in the soil. Click here for more information.