Root Suckers

Most species of deciduous tree will resprout from its stump when cut down. This ability forms the basis for the ancient craft of coppicing where trees would be regularly cut to ground level so that new shoots could resprout to provide new stems for fuel, basket weaving, hurdles etc.

Many species will produce a new growth shoot from a root if it should become exposed to sunlight through natural ground erosion. There are however, some species that readily produce shoots from their buried roots. This method is a useful way for the tree to regenerate itself and is more common if the tree is experiencing a form of stress, such as being cut down!.

It is important to consider such stress reactions when cutting down trees. I can remember a situation where someone cut their Robinia pseudoacacia down to a stump and within a few weeks the garden lawn was covered with 12" tall, fast growing root suckers.

The following species are likely to produce root suckers as a response to being felled.

Common Name Botanical Name
Tree of Heaven Ailanthus altissima
Alder Alnus
Poplar (especially White Poplar) Populus esp. alba
Wild Cherry Prunus avium
Sumacs Rhus
Locust, False Acacia, Robinia Robinia pseudoacacia
English Elm Ulmus procera

Poisoning a stump to prevent such suckering may not be a successful operation since application of a herbicide onto a stump face will only affect the stump and the top ends of the roots.

The following photographs illustrate the process of root regeneration . The parent tree (White Poplar) has produced new shoots from its roots buried under the footpath. The shoots have pushed up through the tarmac surface to produce new trees. The term 'parent' is actually misleading since the new trees and root suckers are all connected together and are biologically one single tree.

poplar suckers.jpg (72686 bytes)


poplar suckers 2.jpg (26396 bytes)The new trees have grown from suckers and are now several meters high. The lifting of the tarmac can be clearly seen.


Judging by the pruning wounds, they seem to have been adopted (perhaps unknowingly) by Southampton City Council, even though they are growing within a footpath.

The root suckers need amazing strength to push up through the tarmac. If allowed to continue growing, the increase in stem and root girth from these new trees may, in the future,  cause serious problems with buried services.


2001 Chris Skellern. AIE.    Home  | News | A-Z Index  | Resources  |  Contact AIE  |  Terms of Use