Can You Guess How Big That Taproot Was?

Everything in Texas is bigger – it’s true.

Last weekend I went to my husband’s 40th High School reunion. I was curious to see what the young faces in the yearbooks grew into.

I wondered if any of my husband’s old girlfriends would be there.

And, I was expecting to be a little bored.

I couldn’t have been more wrong.

Another spouse, Armand and I get to talking and Armand says, “hey, you know what I did last weekend? I moved a huge old pecan tree”.

I gave him a look that let him know I knew he was insane. “You know its August don’t you?”

That was actually a stupid question on my part as even in the coldest air conditioned room in Texas, the searing 102 on the other side of the wall still gets to you.

Transplanting is traumatic to plants at any time, and this was the worst possible season.

A construction scheduling thing was triumphing over natural rhythms and the tree was in the way. Turns out that Armand and his brother specialize in saving large old trees. The landowner could afford to move the tree if it could be done. Or it would be cut down.

But the tree had to go – now.

First they heavily pruned the tree – cutting it back to almost half its original size. Then they used backhoes to dig all around it. The machines can only do so much, and the digging under the tree was done by hand with shovels.

The tree was being held in place and upright, using chains and a huge crane. The crane used three semi trucks for anchors.

At some point you can no longer use shovels and the final undercutting was done by sawing with a chain pulled on either end by coordinated backhoes. So the hole had to be huge; big enough for not only digging up the root ball, but also providing room for the machines doing the sawing with chain.

As they went, they used numerous cables, straps, and wrapping to completely enclose the root ball so it would not disintegrate when the crane lifted the entire thing up.

Armand was showing me some photos of all this on his cell phone.

“So guess how big the tap root was on that tree?”.

I laughed and asked Armand how much money he had put into the pool on the answer to that.

And then I brought up the pivotal question “what kind of soils was the tree growing in?”

Pure caliche.

Which is basically a form of rock.

So how big do you think the taproot was? Put you guess in the comments box and after we’ve gotten a bunch of guesses I’ll post the answer.

Here is a clue:

The final root ball was about 20’ in diameter and 10’ deep. The crown of the tree was about 45′ across.  The entire tree weighed 159,000 pounds.

Yeah, everything in Texas is bigger.

PS:  Click here to see photos Armand sent me of this actual tree being moved.

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This post was written by Marjory


  • G. says:

    I would love to read an update if the trees survives and thrives!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      currently its been in the ground almost three weeks and not a leaf has dropped off.

      The hole they put it in had, OMG, I can’t m how many semi truck loads of compost and soil. 6 maybe? It is being watered at least twice a day.

      Armand and his brother do this quite regularly and fully expect the tree to live.

      But yes, I’ll keep you posted.

    2. Zola Denio says:

      I would guess 75′ if it is in rock—Don’t have a clue!, Just guessing—FYI, I tried to dig up a Oak Tree on my Property that was 3″ tall—and the Tap root was 24″ deep! I now save acorn’s to plant where I want them—Never again will I dig up a Oak Tree!

  • Janet Lickey Fletcher says:

    50 feet

  • Sharon says:

    I would guess the tap root was as deep as they tree was tall and about 4 foot in diameter.

  • Charles E. Hughes says:

    I would guess that with the root ball being 46ft.x10ft. deep the Tap Root is probably in the 18″-24″dia.x 8.5ft. long. Just a guess, but it can’t be longer than the 10ft. depth of the root ball.

    Thanks, Charlie

  • Mona says:

    I would have love to see a video of the process. I understand pictures were taken, and the work had some danger involved, but did anyone video the process?
    Wish more had the means to save old trees! esp. pecans. I grew up on a piece of property where my grandfather had planted a pecan orchard on close to 2 acres on one side and a pear/plum/peach orchard on 2 acres up the other side. ‘For progress’ they removed them ALL when after the land was sold to new owners. It makes me so sad, thinking about it.
    As for the tap root, was it not as long as the tree was tall?

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Mona I would love to see that process also. Perhaps I can do a shoot of another tree they move.

  • Caroline says:

    Well, if the root ball was 46′ I’d expect the tap root to at least be 3x that – so 150′?

  • Linda H says:

    My guess is an 80 foot taproot! Wow, I want to hear the answer. We have a pecan tree we have been debating about moving since it’s really too close to our drain field and we worry about the roots in the lines. After this posting, we maybe need to make a change!

  • Ruth says:

    The taproot was probably as long as the tree was tall. Because it was in the caliche, it may have been longer just to get to the water table.

  • FreeMan says:

    I am guessing 42 feet… but I keep thinking if they actually got it all out!

    Love Peace and Respect

  • Joyce S. Smith says:

    Size of Pecan Tree Tap Root is probably 16′.

  • Nikki G says:

    I cannot even guess how deep the tap root went, maybe not so far in rock? But, did they just jerk the tap root up, or pull and then wrap it in with the root ball? Just amazing! Did he say how much they payed him to do that job?

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Nikki, I think Armand said the cost of the job was about $18,000 – but the owner had a bunch of the necessary heavy equipment – without that the cost would have been much much higher. I think the owner was a Caterpillar dealer or something? I am glad he cared enough to move the tree.

  • char kremer says:

    my guess would be 10 feet for the tap root

  • Aayla Wilder says:

    45 or 46 ft. at least, I’ll bet, but I don’t think there’s enough info to make such a guess. Ten feet deep? How can this be calculated?

  • tracy bruring says:

    my guess is 25 feet

  • jerry says:

    I didn’t think pecan trees had tap roots.

  • DeAnn says:

    Since the root ball was 10′, I will guess the tap root was 20′.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      The root ball was 10′ in width and 46′ across.

  • Alright, 60 feet long and 5 feet around. I want to know also how the tree does, even a year or 2 from now.

  • David says:

    I Guess that by “how big” you mean “how long” is the tap root? I will guess 200 feet long? Figure it has to go at least two times its width of 46 feet and in hot/dry Texas, it has to be a long way down to the water table.

  • Vince says:

    The original post did not say how tall the tree was, but I’ll guess the taproot was as deep as the height of the tree.

  • Desert Fox says:

    Well, that’s an unfair question. If I knew anything about the tree I might venture, but most of us don’t know what a pecan tree even looks like…so why don’t you just show us a picture? I’m assuming a tap root is long to search for moisture in an unfriendly environment?

    Great story…bad ending. Sorry, don’t like guessing games…

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Desert Fox, well I suppose it is hard to please everyone. When Armand asked me the question I thought it was fun to guess. But hey, we will have lots of other great posts for you to enjoy. And yes, I am trying to get photos.

  • Dale Barnard says:

    In that hard soil, I’ll go with 61 feet.

  • Rey says:

    Growing in Caliche? Yeah, the tap root was less than 10 feet from the bottom of the root ball. Caliche doesnt let anything get thru.

  • kathy says:

    They did the same thing at the old Mueller Austin airport. I think 100 trees. I was surprised because pecans are so hard to transplant the nurseries won’t guarantee them like they do all the other fruit and nut trees. My sister and brother in law lives near Mueller Park and said that they they were doing well!

  • Jacqueline says:

    How big was it?

  • Selene says:

    I would guess it is as long as it needs to be to get to some water.

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Well, sounds like you’ve got a bit of politician in you.

  • Wynell says:

    My guess is at least 50 feet. We have 35 pecan trees on our old homestead ranch in central Texas. They have been there since before 1889, when our family came to Texas. For those of you who have never seen a pecan tree, they are beautiful! They provide lots of shade, a delicious crop to eat, good smoking wood for the bar-b-que from the fallen dead wood, and beautiful wood for furniture. I hope the transplanted tree survives!

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Hi Wynell,

      Armand says they do this kind of thing all the time and haven’t lost any yet. And the big lug I wrote about is doing fine.

  • nettie horner says:

    Tap root may be as deep as he tree is tall, and other roots may stem out to the edge of the trees branches reach.

  • nettie horner says:

    As tall as the tree is the tap root may be that deep, and other roots may stem out to the edge of the trees branches reach.

    1. Well,
      I’m with Nettie Horne only I will add to the edge. Lets say 10′ deep and 30′ wide.
      Hay Jen, How do I put up a picture / Aratar ??????????

  • Jerr says:

    I will guess the tap root is 5ft. 6inches in diameter. (^_^)

    1. I meant Jerr.
      How did you put up a picture here ? Thanks.

      1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

        I wonder about that too. Is there a way to post photos?

  • Rhonda Pratt says:

    I’m guessing that the taproot was as fat around as the tree, and if it hit the rock at 10 feet I’m guessing it spiraled a bit , so around 250 ft

  • Guy says:

    100 ft. not really my guess but my Girlfriends and since she is always right(lol) at least according to her I will put her answer out to the public as a final test?

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Oh guy – I pray for your relationship….

    2. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      Oh guy – I pray for your relationship….

  • Christa says:

    I hope you are asking depth and not width on the taproot. I was initially thinking 100’… that would probably get it to the aquifer on the other side of the caliche. Depending on if it’s south or north, might be up to 150′.

  • Rich Emerson says:

    12′-18′ deep

  • Debbie Brown says:

    I’m going to guess that the taproot was 35′ long, though parts of me keep saying 15′ or 25′. But it had to be at least the 10′ with the rootball that size. Just not certain as research doesn’t help determine a formula to calculate without knowning how deep the water table is where it grew up.

  • Kat Linehan says:

    Just guessing, 10 ft down and at least 23 feet radius, so 33 feet long. Thanks for the amazing story!! And, I love your emails.

  • Bill Moser says:

    15 feet – six inches

  • shirley says:

    My husband believes it would be over 300′.

    I hope the tree makes it!

  • Doug says:

    I would guess it is somewhat bigger than eight (8) feet. Since you did not say how big the trunk was, it is hard to guess, but just for fun, I’ll say the taproot was 8’7″.

  • john says:

    My guess—5’4″.

  • Robby777 says:

    My guess is the height of the tree plus another 50%

  • Becky says:

    My guess is 58′. Can’t hardly wait to find out for sure. This is fun.

  • Stefanie says:

    Well, hard to figure without the height of the tree in total.
    Not sure what to do with the weigh of the tree as how dense the soil is, what the water content of the soil and tree varies and where that fits in conical volume if that is even the right choice of formula here but…

    But, if you use the volume for a cone (inverted one here as a taproot for say a carrot or parsnip is roughly conical)
    Conical volume = (1/3) · π · r2 · h

    .33 X 3.14 X r2 [Radius squared]
    so diameter is 46′
    so radius is 1/2 that
    so 23′ squared = 529′.
    And depth of the taproot is 10′,
    so using that for height so 10′.

    So: .33 x 3.14 x 529′ x 10′ = 5,481.498 cubic feet approximately if the rootball was roughly conical shaped.

    Lol, its been a long time since middle school geometry class.

    Dunno if I am close, not sure what units you want the answer in.
    But ya so 5,481 cubic feet is my rough answer.

    1. Hi Stefanie,
      Your math was right. Did you say middle school ? Your integrating formula compleat looks as; pi as II thats Greek
      2 2
      IIr (h ) 1 2
      / / = / =II r h
      h 3 3

      Forgive me. I dont see how to up-load here. And not in the mood for a paint copy. There’s much more to the above.
      Crap! I had no-Idear how big a Pecan tree was.

      1. OK,
        That pi in Greek was two capital letter I (i) side by side that my show as an l (L). Its an cap-i .

      2. Well that up-load didn’t work too well.

        It should read :
        pi square over h square times h square over 3 equals, (your) one over 3 times pi times r square times h .

        IIxr2/h2xh2/3 = 1/3xpi2xh

  • jIM rEED says:

    The roots go out to the drip line for width. I dug a seedling 18 inches tall that had a tap root 38″ long. Be interesting to know how long the poor thing makes it.

  • Brandi says:

    I would guess around 12 feet.

  • Allen says:

    I am guessing over 120 feet maybe 4-6 in diameter.

  • Laura says:

    This post has the WIDEST range of guesses I have ever seen in my life. Sooo… I am going to guess 142′, simply because apparently it was an old tree, and therefore probably tall, and apparently taprooots grow quite a bit longer than the height of the tree. BUT – I really have no idea. 🙂

  • NLJ says:

    Gee Marjory – you struck a nerve or tap root for sure. Please include a bit of the education it took Armand & his bro to take on such monumental feats. Since they had to hack that tree out of the ground, I hope the receiving hole is a more friendly environment with lotsa yummy compost and other nutrients…Or whatever is good for Pecan trees. Hearing that it went thru rock makes me think maybe adversity & the rough & rugged road is what is best – at least for “baby pecans”. wow – how @ 100 ft.

  • Gwen says:

    holy mary mackerel mother of… short of redwoods, I didn’t think there were trees with taproots that went down to the rock in the USA. That said, I know there are trees in india, africa, and the amazon rainforest that can pry their way into the rock, heck in India those roots are prying the bricks in ruined temples and other ancient structures apart.

    Peers at the tree mover guy. “What i wanna know is ever move a redwood tree?”

    1. Marjory Wildcraft says:

      The tree movers are Texans. No Redwoods here in Texas to move.

  • Melissa Wales says:

    Very shallow based on soil and ball width. At most 2 feet. Growth was horizontal versus vertical. Soil type may have prevented and evolutionarily (made-up word) discouraged vertical growth. This uneducated guess was based entirely on my limited experience excavating in clay for 3 years and extremely limited gardening experience.

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