Tree Planting Glossary

  • ANSI: American National Standards Institute writes specifications and standards for many professions and products through committees of experts in that field (e.g. planting stock, climbing equipment etc.).
  • At Grade: Even with the top of the soil.
  • Backfilling: Refilling the planting hole, done after the tree has been stabilized.
  • Balled and Burlapped: Planting stock that has been dug from the field and wrapped in burlap (held in place by twine or a wire basket) in order to keep the soil ball intact during transport and before installation. Abbreviation B&B.
  • Bare root: Planting stock that has the soil removed from the root system. The root system must be kept moist at all times to ensure that the roots don’t dry out and die.
  • Basket: Wire confinement often used to hold balled and burlapped soil balls together.
  • Branching habit: Structure of a tree; relating to what the branch attachments look like (wide angle vs. narrow, included bark, etc.).
  • Caliper: The diameter of the trunk measured 6 inches above ground for stock up to 4 inches in caliper size. If larger than 4 inches caliper measure at 12 inches above the ground.
  • Cankers: Wounds caused by biotic or abiotic conditions that penetrate the bark, causing it to spilt open. The vascular tissue and the bark are often destroyed or rendered useless by cankers. Cankers are often circular or oval in shape, and can increase in size if attacked by the pathogen repetitively or if the tree cannot seal them over and environmental conditions around them do not improve. Wounds provide entryways for decay causing pathogens to enter and weaken the structure of the tree.
  • Chlorosis: Yellowing of the leaves due to nutrient deficiency- usually nitrogen or iron (not occurring at fall leaf drop).
  • Compacted: Soil that has increased in bulk density due to heavy foot or motor traffic. Many roots cannot penetrate into compacted soil because it is so dense, and compacted soils often become waterlogged or starved for oxygen which further impact the tree’s growth.
  • Containerized: Trees that were grown in the field and then transplanted into buckets for the final growing season or just before sale.
  • Container: Any tree that grows in a container. There are two basic types: trees that have spent their entire life in a container (pot)- container grown; and young field grown stock that has been dug and placed into a container (pot) to finish growing- containerized.
  • Crown: The portion of the tree that has foliage attached to it. This does not include water sprouts or root suckers.
  • Decay: The breakdown of woody tissues by pathogens. This structurally weakens the tree making it more susceptible to failure.
  • Dieback: Death of living tissues, usually leaves and twigs first, that progress from the outside or top of the tree towards the interior or base.
  • Encircling roots: Roots with erratic growth that form tangentially or circularly around the base of the tree’s trunk.
  • First order roots: The first tier of roots branching off from the stem. The are usually the oldest roots on the tree. In young plant the first order roots should be the about the width of a pencil.
  • Frost canker: A canker caused by rapid temperature changes during winter days. Often starts as split bark, and provides an entry way for pathogens and subsequent decay. See canker above.
  • Frost crack: A vertical split in the bark and wood of a tree due to rapid temperature changes during winter days. Cracks can open and close depending on the air temperature. There is a major difference between a frost crack and a frost canker. A crack penetrates into the structural wood, not just the other living tissues.
  • Fungal: Stemming from fungus.
  • Graft: Parts of two plants (usually a root system and a branch) that are joined together to form one plant. This is a common practice for cultivars and plants that cannot reproduce on their own.
  • Guying: The act of straightening a tree by pulling it into the vertical position, usually with only one staking attachment.
  • Heeled-in: Covering unplanted stock with woodchips or loose soil to prevent root desiccation.
  • Included bark: Bark in a branch union that prevents a branch from attaching correctly to the trunk/branch. The inclusion of bark between solid wood creates a structurally weak union, which are known to fail during strong winds.
  • J-rooting: A dysfunctional root system where the roots curve back towards the surface in a “J” like pattern.
  • Leader: The main shoot off which most of the growth occurs.
  • Mechanical damage: Damage caused by machines (e.g. lawn mowers, loaders, weed whips).
  • Mulch volcano: The act of piling mulch in a mound around the base of a tree to a point where it looks like a large “volcano.” This is not healthy for the tree and can create an environment suitable for the growth of pathogens and insects.
  • Multi-stemmed: Having more than one leader. Leaders can come from the ground (as in clump birches) or start part way up the tree.
  • Necrotic: Dead areas in the leaves; they are brown and brittle.
  • Nodes: A node is a raised ridge of wood, from which each year’s growth begins. Previous growth will be woody, whereas the current growth will not. Nodes from the past few growing seasons can be seen.
  • Pot bound: Where the plant has been in the pot too long and the roots have begun to wind around the edge of the container in a circular pattern.
  • Propagation: The act of growing a plant from cutting, graft or seed.
  • Radical trenching: Digging trenches radiating in a spoke like pattern from the planting hole, usually to ease soil compaction.
  • Root ball: The ball of soil the planting stock is purchased with that contains the root system. Synonym: Soil Ball.
  • Root flare: The base of the trunk where it meets the root system. As the first order roots grow a flare is created. If your tree does not have a root flare, it could be a sign that it was planted too deep and the first order roots are below grade. Flares appear as the tree ages. (Synonym: Trunk Flare)
  • Root sucker: New growth that starts from the root system and grows upward out of the ground, often forming new branches.
  • Soil ball: See Root ball.
  • Spade: A large machine that is used to dig up larger caliper trees.
  • Staking: The act of propping up a tree with stakes and attachments (ropes and webbing).
  • Stem girdling roots: Roots with erratic growth that form tangentially or circularly around the base of the tree’s trunk. As the tree and the roots grow and come into contact with each other, the root will cut off the flow of nutrients from the roots to the trunk, girdling the tree.
  • Stock: Term used to describe planting material sold at a nursery.
  • Stress: Response of a tree to outside factors- insects/pathogens/pollution/soil compaction. Results: slowed/stopped growth; stunted leaves; chlorosis/necrosis etc.
  • Sun scald: See Frost canker.
  • Sweating: Forcing plants to break dormancy by layering them with plastic, mulch and water, then leaving them in a warm environment.
  • Tangential roots: See Encircling roots.
  • Terminal bud: The bud at the very end of the branch (or top of the tree) pointing in the direction of growth.
  • Thinned out: Removing branches throughout the tree.
  • Transplant stock: A period of time the tree takes to recover from root loss. Generally the larger caliper the tree, the longer the transplant shock.
  • Trunk flare: See Root flare.
  • Vascular system: The area in a tree where water and nutrients flow to and from the roots/leaves. This area is located in the juvenile wood- between the bark and the heart wood (nonliving center of the tree).
  • Viable: Synonym: Living, alive.
  • Water sprout: New growth that grows from the older trunk or branches where there was no previous growth. Synonym: Suckering.
  • Wind throw: Trees that have been blown over by wind.

Emily Hanson deals with natural resources of urban areas. She is based in St. Paul.

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