Written by: Sandra Gorter
Your weight breaks any tiny feeder roots you stand on, providing an instant entry point for any pathogens carried on your feet through the open wound (credit- Auckland Council)
Auckland Council’s 'Kauri man', Zacc Forbes Smith held a Kauri Dieback workshop for enthusiasts like ourselves on 23rd September, and STNN’s Facilitator Adie Fortune and myself went along.
In a nutshell, Zacc told us that Kauri are one of the world’s great communicators! So when you’re out there amongst the trees you’re amongst whānau caring for one another.
Communication: the act of transferring information from one place, person or group to another. Every communication involves (at least) one sender, a message and a recipient. (Google)
Zacc described the three types of roots that support these trees:
The tap root that ‘taps’ into the ground securing water for the tree
The structural roots that stabilse the tree so it doesn’t fall over
The tiny feeder roots that bring food and air
Tap root (Credit – Google) 2. Infected root (Credit – Auckland Council) 3. Spot the feeder roots amongst the leaf litter! (Credit Auckland Council)
The tap and structural roots are the visually impressive roots you can see around the tree, but it’s the tiny spider-web-like feeder roots that are really cute – also shy, so you’re lucky to be able to see them. These are the roots that spread out to three times the distance of the canopy, intertwining with the feeder roots of nearby Kauri trees and bringing the food and water that enable the tree to live.
The intertwining of the feeder roots of a grove enable the trees of that grove to exchange information and resources through chemical and electrical interaction – pretty much the same way we do!
Unfortunately, these are the roots that are most easily damaged by people tramping all over them, and when they’re broken, diseases like Kauri Dieback (Phytophthora agathidicida) sneak into the broken tiny roots and invade the tree.
When left alone, Kauri manage the environment around their feeding roots by dropping branches and leaves – at a great rate which you will no doubt have observed. This leaf litter not only protects and nourishes the tiny feeder roots, it acidifies that soil creating a more wholesome environment for Kauri and the multitude of plants that have evolved alongside them.
KEEPING KAURI SAFE. To keep Kauri safe, don’t walk on the roots that feed and aerate the tree. These shy wee roots are mostly invisible to the naked eye. They are also protected and supported by the leaf litter so please encourage the litter around your tree. And most of all – stay off the ground inhabited by feeder roots, and PLEASE do not put anything in this area around the tree especially concrete paths, driveways or general things you can’t find another place for!