Suckers at base of redwood trees - Knowledgebase Question

La Canada, CA
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Question by lynne74
November 16, 2006
I have several mature redwood trees. They all have suckers growing at their bases. On one tree, the suckers are so thick that perhaps only a machete could cut them. What is the best way to remove the suckers?
Thank you.

Answer from NGA
November 16, 2006
Redwoods are one of a very few coniferous trees that can reproduce by sprouting. As early as one year after beginning to grow, a redwood can begin to produce bud collars, most commonly referred to as ?burls?. These dormant root buds will continuously form, sometimes creating large bulbous growth on the tree's roots, base, or trunk. Hormones within the tree keep these burls from sprouting until the tree faces some form of stress. Fire, erosion, flooding, browsing, or other injury to the tree will trigger a release on the buds, causing them to begin to grow within a few weeks.

Redwood sprouts, or suckers, can grow rapidly, receiving their early nutrition from the roots on which they grow. They are genetically identical to their parent tree, often forming "family circles" around the parent tree. Under optimal conditions, sprouts may reach heights of 8-10 feet in their first year. Eventually the tree will grow its own root system and can survive even if the parent tree should topple. Since suckering is such a normal process, keeping the suckers pruned back can present a real problem. You'll want to cut them down rather than try to use a chemical means of control; chemicals can eventually harm the parent tree because both the suckers and the parent tree share a common root system. I would highly recommend cutting the suckers down, just below soil level and then keeping them cut down on a regular basis.

Best wishes with your landscape!

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