Trees develop a natural broadening or “flare” at the soil surface as they mature. This region, referred to as the “root collar,” is where the main "buttress" roots join the trunk, at right.
Unfortunately, new trees are often planted too deep, resulting in root collars being buried six to twelve inches below the soil surface. Even more unfortunate, the root collars of mature trees are often buried under several feet of soil when construction sites are graded, at left!
A classic telltale sign that a tree has been planted too deeply, or has been buried under several feet of fill is a trunk that has no root "flare" as it enters the ground, below right.
Regardless of the cause, exposure to soil moisture and limited oxygen levels gradually kills cells within the root collar. This leads to declining vigor of affected trees, increasing their susceptibility to a variety of opportunistic insect pests and diseases. This, in turn, often results in their death several to many years later.