I've got some 8 foot Swedish Columnar Aspens that have some foliage growing from the base of the tree by the dirt on the ground.
Should I prune these off to allow nutrients go to other areas of the tree?
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Yes, remove any growth from the root flare, surface roots, and the lower trunks. This growth (known as suckers and water sprouts), if left unchecked, will grow into large, structurally unsound, and unattractive new trunks and branches, which can drain the rest of the tree from resources. In a lawn, regular mowing keeps root suckers at bay. Root flare and trunk sprouts can be taken care of on a regular basis with a pair of sharp, clean hand pruners.