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Question DetailsAsked on 4/24/2013

Can I lay a patio over half the roots (below the major half of the canopy) of a chinese tallow tree w/o harming?

I have to dig up some of the roots (up to 3" diameter) and it covers most of the area under half of the tree. I don't want to kill the tree or have it totally destroy the pavers I lay down. I'm thinking of doing 2" of sand and pavers on top. These trees seem to grow like weeds so I wasn't too worried, however my wife got worried and so now I'm worried ;-). The tree is the canopy for the patio and I need to keep it healthy. I can send pictures of the project area if you tell me where to send them. The tree is about 20-25 feet tall and leans toward the area where I plan to put the patio and where most of the canopy is. Does it send out roots in all directions and much beyond the canopy? I live in the central San Joaquin Valley (Fresno) and love the tree's shade and fall color. People on the east coast seem to hate them, judging by internet posts, and seem to have a hard time killing them. Thank you.

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1 Answer


I hate to tell you, but the Chinese Tallow Tree is considered a noxious invasive weed, and the sap, leaves, and blossoms are reported as toxic. Its leaves also kill off pretty much anything that grows under it. It is listed as highly invasive on the National as well as the California Invasive Plant Inventories, is being actively eradicated along the Gulf Coast states, and is totally banned in Texas, where it has replaced as much as 25% of the natural trees in some areas.

That said, most trees will enlarge their root system as they grow (typically 100 years or more for a Tallow tree), so you can expect some bulging up of the pavers, especially in the 3 feet or so closest to the tree. Cutting roots back may actually aggravate this, by promoting new runner root growth from the cuts. Also, cutting a few roots will probably not kill the tree, but cutting roots over about 1/2 inch in diameter will reduce the ability of the tree to resist winds from that side, and may cause it to be uprooted by strong winds.

The tree has a strong tap root, which helps its very rapid growth, but roots will extend as wide as the crown all around the tree.

If you cover the roots with pavers expect some disruption in the future - you can reduce that by not paving in the roughly 3 foot area around the tree - maybe put in a nice border around it and a small, shallow dry-type flower bed or individual flower pots or planters, or wrap a circular treated wood bench around it, though the oill from the flowers / seeds will probably make that sticky during the blossoming season.

For general root health you do not want to cover the crown of any tree root system, or put anything there that will keep it wet or promote fungus or mold growth, which could infest the tree and gradually kill it off.


Answered 6 years ago by LCD

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