Penetration of Treated and Untreated Burlap by Roots of Balled-and-Burlapped Norway Maples

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Journal of Arboriculture



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Successful transplanting requires that woody plant roots quickly grow from the root ball, through any packing materials, and into the surrounding soil. Burlap is a common packing material on medium to large root balls; it may be untreated or treated to resist decay, or synthetic "burlap" may be used. Many people believe that roots can easily and quickly penetrate burlap and therefore such materials can be left on the root ball at planting, saving time and decreasing root disturbance, but possibly interfering with root growth after planting. This study was done to determine whether Norway maple (Acer platanoides L.) roots could readily penetrate treated and untreated burlap left on root balls during transplanting. I found that the presence of untreated or treated burlap had little or no effect on root growth from the original root ball. Untreated burlap decayed quickly, though the double layer decayed more slowly. Treated burlap did not appear to decay markedly over the course of the study and evidence was found that it can cause root girdling later on. Management implications and recommendations are discussed.