Pine trees (Pinus spp.) are coniferous (cone-bearing) evergreens, and the Invasive Species Specialist Group indicates that there are approximately 111 species of pines around the world; in the United States, they mostly grow in USDA plant hardiness zones 8 or lower, though some can grow in zone 9. Pine trees have taproot systems, which have lateral branches and grow vertically downward. Taproots provide strong anchoring points and stabilize pine trees from being blown over by the wind. The lateral taproot sections can aid in mineral and water absorption.
Pine trees in well-draining soil have a taproot, which helps to provide them the majority of their nutrients and keeps them from falling over in the wind. In poorly draining soils, pines are more shallowly rooted.
Pine Tree Characteristics
Besides having taproot systems, pine trees have those familiar cones, and there are two kinds. One develops and drop seeds, while the other produces pollen. Cones take about two years to mature, and the seeds fall out from between the cone scales.
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Pine trees also have needles rather than broad leaves, and the needles are bundled together and sheathed in scales that are attached to the tree's twigs. The needles live for a few years, drop off and new ones replace them. These evergreens have two kinds of bark: smooth or furrowed and scaly. Pine trees can grow up to 100 feet high.
More About the Taproots
Though pine trees also have fine roots that grow into the top layer of soil, the taproots are its main source of nutrients. In soil that doesn't drain well, however, the roots are located closer to the surfact. Taproots vary in length based on species and hydrology; for instance, the taproot of the longleaf pine (Pinus palustris, USDA zones 7-9) may reach 8 to 12 feet at maturity, says University of Florida School of Forest Resources & Conservation. Taproots reach down as far as they must to find water sources and store energy. If the roots are not strong, the pine tree can die; the roots must be in deep soil for stability.
This is why pine trees do better in forests rather than as standalone trees and why they do not do well in sandy soil. Disturbing the soil around their root bases can destroy their taproot systems. Additionally, if the roots are shallow and without depth, the pine tree can actually topple over in a storm or when there are high winds.
On the other hand, healthy pine trees with large, spreading roots can damage sidewalks and structures, including the foundation of a house. If the damage is serious, it may be necessary to have the tree taken out by a professional.
Removing the Tree’s Roots
It may be possible to remove some of the aboveground roots, but there is no guarantee that the pine tree will survive. To attempt this, you will need to wear safety goggles, protective gloves, a shovel; plus you'll need a hand saw or chain saw. Wear long sleeves, long pants and sturdy shoes, since you will be using a saw.
Dig out 6 to 12 inches around the root where it comes out of the ground, and all around the soil roots as well, clearing enough space for the cutting and keeping the soil. Use your saw to cut out these roots. Once the saw is put away and the area is cleaned up, refill the holes with the soil and water the area well.
Make sure to water the area daily for the next two weeks and keep an eye on the tree. If you see that it is becoming diseased, you may be able to treat it. When pine trees start leaning toward one side, though, this indicates instability. The tree should be removed as soon as possible, as it could fall over and hurt someone or cause property damage.