Roots do not always run deep
January 9, 2022 2:58 PM   Subscribe

So much of our planet hushes me with its beauty.
posted by youarenothere at 3:15 PM on January 9, 2022 [4 favorites]

A couple of favourites that illustrate the diversity of the root systems: (1), (2), (3)
posted by a feather in amber at 3:20 PM on January 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

I was definitely taught in elementary school that tree roots tend to be equivalent to the tree height, and I just sort of accepted it as true and applied it universally. I’ve just scanned through a few images on the main page (haven’t gotten past the A-s), but it’s definitely very neat to see the variety!! This would make a great in person gallery exhibit.
posted by obfuscation at 3:26 PM on January 9, 2022

From the first link:

One day the researchers were preparing a root sample on a dike in the Netherlands. An employee of 'Rijkswaterstaat' ordered them to leave, because he thought, they were damaging the dike.

Anyone know what’s up with this anecdote? Given that their methodology seems to be excavate entire root system, clean it, draw it, it seems reasonable for someone from the Directorate-General for Public Works and Water Management to tell them to go elsewhere. Am I missing something obvious?
posted by zamboni at 3:38 PM on January 9, 2022

Can I just say: Oh my gosh I love these images so much. Form and function! Plants! Wheeeeee!
posted by sciencegeek at 4:50 PM on January 9, 2022

These are great! Such wonderful drawings and such diversity in plant-land.

Also this seems like a good place for my floating gripe to land for awhile: grar grar grar the myth about trees -particularly oak trees- having tap roots deep into the soil. I mean, think of all the knocked-over trees you have ever seen IRL or in storm footage: do any of them look like the underneath of a tree is a goddamn carrot?!?!?!?
posted by janell at 7:58 PM on January 9, 2022 [2 favorites]

What a wonderful find!

So that time you picked a dandelion? A mere flesh wound!
posted by gwint at 9:28 PM on January 9, 2022 [3 favorites]

Radical! Where I live the two commonest hedgerow trees are ash/es Fraxinus excelsior and hawthorn/meidoorn Crataegus monogyna. Hawthorns are always getting uprooted in storms, ash never - they just rain branches down from on high. Eight years ago, starting a new job, I was required to teach environmental chemistry. I was commuting to work through horizontal winter weather and I had an idea for a practical experiment for the students. "we" would measure the mineral content [Li, Na, K] of leaves (more accessible than roots) in these two species from two different sites. Hypothesis: trees roots of each species selectively take minerals they need from whatever soil they find themselves in OR tree roots take up whatever is locally available indiscriminately. As is the nature of science, the results were eh maybe, needs a bigger sample. The following year, however, the institute hired a qualified environment chemist, so they had me teach human physiology to pharmacy technicians?! I dunno about the students, but I learned a lot on that job.
posted by BobTheScientist at 12:43 AM on January 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

These are so cool! I remember reading years ago about a tattoo artist with a background in biology who would get annoyed at people wanting tattoos of trees where the canopy and the root systems were close to mirror images of each other because of how inaccurate it was.
posted by SeedStitch at 7:08 AM on January 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Wonderful gallery.

Especially helpful for those of us doing battle against gravity and the force of water and weight of earth.

Erosion control is a lot of fun when you really dig into the nerditry.

I've got my eyes on you, carex. You're all over the place and I, I have a shovel and will move you where I please.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 2:06 PM on January 10, 2022 [1 favorite]

Scrolling through these, the drip line doesn’t appear to be a terribly good guide to the extent of the root system.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:09 PM on January 10, 2022

Great post thankyou a feather in amber

I met a researcher in Los Angeles in 2011 who introduced me to designing functional planting (stormwater, polluted soils etc) based on root morphology and physiology, it's now integral to my work - people get sooo hung up on the pretty stuff topside and look at me like I've got three heads when I say "do you know what's happening in the ground", but some of them take me on and it becomes a job, and then a planted space.
posted by unearthed at 11:28 PM on January 11, 2022 [2 favorites]

Adjacent thought for horticulture nerds:

I wish plant catalogs and vendors would include pictures of root systems on plants that were highly fibrous or dense. Those of us with hillsides look out for those plants because a few dense plantings with really sturdy root systems and a few strategically shaped rocks helps with erosion control and efficient water distribution.

If the soil isn't anchored solidly, water runs off as if on a sidewalk as it rains and it doesn't stop to offer water anything.

I've been playing with 3' fish scale swales along a curving slope--rebar behind three upright pavers set in a curve against the back of the swale, and soil behind to also help keep it sturdy. It's a new thing and I haven't been home to check on it in a month but the early results looked really good in terms of moving water that was hightailing it down the slope to puddle up long enough to be absorbed. They may need a little plant flourish for each so we don't have to mow or edge it.

I'll have to reengineer as I see it through the seasons. Maybe stones behind the pavers along with the rebar for sturdiness or for looks. It has taken me quite a long time to come up with this one solution that may or may not work!
posted by A Terrible Llama at 6:30 AM on January 14, 2022 [1 favorite]

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