Answer: Generally speaking it is not a good idea to cover the exposed surface roots as this will cause the bark to rot and can eventually kill the tree due to the change in grade. If you can, it would be better to plant the area with a shade tolerant ground cover. The groundcover will do better under a tree than a lawn grass would do, especially in view of the shade, as well as the root competion for water and nutrients. Using a groundcover instead of lawn would allow you to avoid mowing and potentialy damaging the roots with the mower blade, as well as make landscape maintenance easier. Your local professional nursery staff should be able to help you select a groundcover that would thrive there. Good luck with your tree!
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