10 Tree Species With The Deepest Roots

What tree has the deepest roots? Here is a list of ten species whose roots grow deep into the ground.

Root depth is an important aspect of tree growths. The root systems are known to perform a variety of functions.

These range from absorption of water and nutrients, nutrient and food storage, anchoring a tree, and vegetative reproduction.

Given all these benefits, what are the trees with the deepest roots? This will be the focus of our discussion.

Root Depth Isn’t Determined by Tree Size

One of the most important things you need to know is that tree size doesn’t translate to root depth. It may be surprising to know that some of the huge trees have shallow root systems.

Most trees are held in place by their lateral roots which spread out and are about twice the length of the longest lateral branches.

10 Trees With The Deepest Roots In The World

Several trees have been confirmed to generally have significantly deeper roots than others.

Examples of these include the Sassafras trees, black gum trees, sweetgum, butternut, Japanese Pagoda, pines, white oaks, hickories, walnuts, and hornbeam.

So, how deep do these go? This is an important question we’ll be finding out shortly. To do this, we’ll be looking at each of these trees with the average depth of their root systems.

  • Black Gum

Black gums are among the trees with the deepest root systems. These trees are native to North America and are average-sized. Nevertheless, size isn’t a hindrance to these trees being among those with the deepest root systems.

As such, they tend to thrive in areas where other trees (especially those with shallow roots) won’t.

  • Sweet Gum

Another tree among our list of those with the deepest roots in the sweet gum.

These trees are known to have a minimum root depth of about 36 inches or 91 cm. Being the minimal depth measured, roots of the sweet gum tree can go much deeper than this.

Factors that could impact root depth include soil compaction, as well as genetics among several others.

  • Butternut

Butternut trees are also considered among trees with a deep root system.

These trees also go by the names white walnut or Juglans cinerea. They’re native to Southeast Canada and the United States. These nut trees are among the hardiest and can grow to a height of 30 meters.

  • Japanese Pagoda

Roots of the Japanese Pagoda tree penetrate deep into the soil. This enables the tree to thrive in harsh conditions.

The Japanese Pagoda tree grows to about 12 to 23 meters in length. It bears alternate compound leaves each carrying about 7 to 17 leaflets.

  • White Oaks

White walnut trees are known to have deep root systems that penetrate as much as 4.5 meters or 15 feet down the soil. Due to this depth, white oaks are unlikely to be affected by drought stress.

In other words, they’re considered drought-resistant trees compared to those with shallow roots.

  • Walnut

Walnut trees are among those with the deepest roots and grow to depths of about 11 feet or more. These enable the tree to thrive in unfavorable weather conditions.

Walnut trees grow fast and develop wide canopies. These trees can attain heights of 30 meters.

  • Hickories

Hickory trees come in multiple varieties. It is among trees having the deepest root systems and thrives in adverse conditions due to depths reached. However, attaining such depths is only possible when certain conditions are met.

These will be discussed shortly.

  • Hornbeam

Hornbeam tree root systems grow deep into the soil. These reach depths of about 6 feet in certain soil types.

However, root penetration is impacted by soil conditions such as compaction or layers of rock underneath. In such cases, hornbeam roots won’t achieve desirable growth.

Exceptional Cases On Tree Root Depths

Certain amazing discoveries have been made about the depth of tree roots. Some of these findings have seen tree roots going to incredible depths of hundreds of feet.

For a better perspective on such findings, we’ll consider two of the most amazing finds; the wild fig and shepherd’s trees.

  • The Wild Fig

One of the most incredible deep roots finds to date belongs to the wild fig tree discovered in South Africa.

This tree, found in the Echo Caves near Ohrigstad was found to have roots that went to a depth of 400 feet or 121.92 meters!

  • Shepherd’s Tree

The shepherd’s tree is among trees with the deepest documented roots. This knowledge was brought to life by groundwater drillers.

It was discovered that the tree had roots that went as deep as 230 feet or 70 meters! The shepherd’s tree is native to the Kalahari desert.

Young Trees Can Have Deep Roots

It’s common to find young trees having deeper root systems than some older ones.

However, this isn’t always the case as it depends on the tree type. The trees listed above are known to grow deeper roots when young. This continues throughout the life of the tree.

Soil Layering will Impede Root Penetration

Soil layering is an important factor that affects the development or penetration of tree roots.

In other words, further downward growth of tree roots is likely to be impeded when they encounter a new layer. There are basically three layers; the topsoil, subsoil, and the C horizon.

Factors That Affect Tree Root Depth

Root development requires specific conditions to be met.

In the absence of these conditions, limited growth is achieved. However, when these conditions are present, roots grow much deeper. So, what are these conditions exactly?

There are several of them. They consist mainly of growth-friendly conditions such as the following.

Ideal conditions for root penetration include water, oxygen, and low soil compaction levels. In growing their root systems, trees thrive on soils with void spaces as well as sufficient moisture and oxygen.

Under these conditions, roots have been known to grow to depths of about 6 meters in length or more.

These are some trees having the deepest root systems.

We’ve seen that root penetration or depth is affected by multiple factors. Whenever you encounter situations such as compacted soils or rocks underneath, root depth will be largely constrained.

In such situations, lateral growth is likely to result.

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