What Types of Trees Have the Deepest Root Systems?

By Staff WriterLast Updated Apr 1, 2020 9:15:35 PM ET

White oaks, hickories and walnut trees all have deep root systems. Deep roots are better suited to reach moisture and nutrients and provide the structural stability that allows trees to grow larger in size. Deep root systems may cause harm to the foundations, plumbing and basements of nearby structures.

The deepest roots, known as taproots, emerge from germinating seeds and continue to grow as the tree matures. Heart roots consist of multiple primary roots that attach to numerous secondary roots. Heart roots may be visible at the base of the trunk and are a common feature of red oaks, sycamore and bigtooth maple trees. Even trees that are not particularly deep-rooted may still damage utilities and structures due to the aggressive growth of their root system.

Trees and other vascular plants have root systems that typically exist below the soil, although some trees may have aerial or aerating roots. Roots provide trees with moisture and nutrients as well as anchoring them in place. Some trees even use their roots to store food and nutrients. A root system consists of perennial primary roots and secondary roots that grow in waves in response to the expansion of the leaf canopy.

A wild fig tree at Echo Caves, near Ohrigstad, Transvaal, South Africa, possesses a reported root depth of 393.7 feet, the deepest ever recorded.