Many common landscape trees have shallow root systems. The roots of these type of trees go down only 4 to 8 inches into the ground. Shallow roots are even visible above the ground. Visible roots, or surface roots, may become a nuisance in a yard. They present tripping hazards and damage sidewalks or driveways. Burying a root barrier around the tree will temporarily keep the roots from invading into an unwanted area.
All members of the willow family have shallow root systems. The corkscrew willow, weeping willow and white willow are common landscaping trees around homes and parks throughout the United States. All of these willows are hardy to U.S. Department of Agriculture zone 4 with the weeping willow and the white willow able to withstand the conditions found in USDA zone 3. The corkscrew willow is a small tree reaching only 25 feet at maturity. In contrast, a white willow will grow to 65 feet at maturity. All of the willows are fast growing trees, but are susceptible to wind damage due to brittle wood.
In the maple family, the sugar maple has a shallow root system. The shallow roots of the sugar maple spread out far from the trunk of the tree. The canopy of this tree provides a dense shade in the summer and bright colored leaves in the fall. The sugar maple can tolerate the conditions found in USDA hardiness zones 3a to 8a and will thrive in a sunny or shady spot. Sugar maples grow slowly and reach a mature height of approximately 80 feet tall.
The pin oak is a rapidly growing type of oak tree with very shallow roots. It thrives in USDA hardiness zones 4 to 8 and requires a planting area with a full day of sunlight. A mature pin oak tree will measure approximately 80 feet tall and the canopy will stretch to 50 feet wide. Although the pin oak is a deciduous tree, the bottom branches will often retain their leaves throughout the winter season.
All ash trees have shallow root systems. These are moderate to fast growing deciduous trees that are tolerant of any type of soil. Ash trees are hardy in USDA zones 3 to 9 with the possibility of the green ash tree surviving in zone 2b. A mature ash tree will measure between 50 to 80 feet tall and 50 to 70 feet wide. In the autumn, the leaves of these trees will turn yellow, maroon and purple.
- Iowa State University Extension; Sidewalks and Trees; Sherry Rindels; March 1995
- University of Florida IFAS Extension; Acer Saccharum: Sugar Maple; Edward F. Gilman, et al.; November 1993
- North Carolina State University; Pin Oak; Erv Evans
- University of Connecticut: Acer Saccharum
- Iowa State University; Ash Trees; October 2010
- Purdue Extension; When Tree Roots Surface; B. Rosie Lerner; August 2002
- US National Arboretum: USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map
Residing in Pennsylvania, Amy Shelleby has been a freelance writer since 2007. She writes gardening, camping and outdoor articles for various websites. Shelleby has an Associate of Science in chemistry from the Community College of Allegheny County.