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Oh, How Our Bare Root Tree Did Grow


When it comes to debates about what size tree to plant, bare root trees are often shunned for larger plants. Well, Edwin, Rhonda and John Dodd have a different story to tell. In 2011, 6-year-old John helped plant a bare root live oak tree, that 12 years later stands at least 20 feet tall. Debate over!

Of course, planting bare root trees in the forest industry is standard practice, and their growth rates are equally impressive. But who pays attention to forests, right? Those of us that live outside the forest are, well, impatient when it comes to the trees that we plant, often to replace those removed on property where we place our homes. We want instant canopy. Planting larger, potted trees is the norm, but those plants are often root-bound, and unless properly treated when planted, are outperformed by well-planted bare root trees.

So, for those of you that collected a bare root tree at one of the recently held Arbor Day Tree giveaways, plant away and stand back. That is exactly what John and his mother did back in 2011, after collecting their pencil thin twig, in the rain on a February day. They chose a good spot, planted the twig well and, as importantly, cared for the growing tree with regular watering and later fertilizer. For native trees, fertilization is not necessary, but it helps.

The proof is clearly seen in the photo of the young tree, taken a mere 9 months after it was planted – having almost doubled in height! The title photo was taken in 2021 where it stands about 18-20 feet tall. As my good friend David Minkler says, the key to this kind of success is all about planting day – the most important day in the life of the tree. The process includes a few easy steps that ensure that the plant will have the best chance to thrive. Click here to read about how that is done, including a link to a short video.

“John’s Live Oak” as it is called is a testament to planting a twig well. It was even carefully moved a few years back, but never missed a beat according to Edwin. Transplanting well is indeed possible. Tradition now is to take a picture of Mom and Son next to the tree on Mother’s Day. John may soon stop growing taller, but his tree will continue to spread upward and sideways, providing shade for he and his Mom, and in years to come his children and their children.

Help David and me spread the word about planting small trees that often outperform larger planted ones. Tell us your story about your bare root tree. I can be reached at [email protected].

Hope to see you in our great outdoors!

Photos courtesy of Edwin Dodd.


Written by Mark W. LaSalle, Ph.D.

Mark is a naturalist and wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. He has also developed and conducted a number of environmental education programs and workshops for youth, teachers, realtors, and the general public on a variety of subjects including wetlands, natural history, and environmental landscaping. Mark is a graduate of the University of Southwestern Louisiana (B.S. and M.S. degrees) and Mississippi State University (Ph.D.). Mark is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award.


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