Little is known about the sources and age of C respired by tree roots. Previous research in stems identified two functional pools of non-structural carbohydrates (NSC): an "active" pool supplied directly from canopy photo-assimilates supporting metabolism and a "stored" pool used when fresh C supplies are limited. We compared the C isotope composition of water-soluble NSC and respired CO2 for aspen roots (Populus tremula hybrids) cut off from fresh C supply after stem-girdling or prolonged incubation of excised roots. We used bomb radiocarbon to estimate the time elapsed since C fixation for respired CO2 , water-soluble NSC and structural α-cellulose. While freshly excised roots (mostly <2.9 mm in diameter) respired CO2 fixed <1 year previously, the age increased to 1.6-2.9 year within a week after root excision. Freshly excised roots from trees girdled ~3 months ago had respiration rates and NSC stocks similar to un-girdled trees but respired older C (~1.2 year). We estimate that over 3 months NSC in girdled roots must be replaced 5-7 times by reserves remobilized from root-external sources. Using a mixing model and observed correlations between Δ14 C of water-soluble C and α-cellulose, we estimate ~30% of C is "active" (~5 mg C g-1 ).