Stressed with Shrubs

This morning I was lucky enough to be able to join my grandfather, a healthy and energetic 84, on his morning routine. He walks approx, 2 miles around his neighborhood to breathe fresh air and admire another beautiful day on this earth. During our stroll, he told me stories of his younger days, learning he had spent a few years employed by the lumber industry. Intrigued by the history of one of my role models, I am always engrossed by the stories of his early adulthood. I find it funny to picture my grandfather at my age, a full head of hair with all his original teeth. We laughed together as we tried to name all the different types of maples when we came to the end of the cul-de-sac. As we began our U-turn I stopped at an unusual tree. Pictured below.

 

 

Describing the photo above, a thin young maple with a collection of branches at the top. However, these branches were completely bare, an odd growth pattern for mid-August. Only a small cluster at the base of the trunk had leaves. I had seen this shrub like presence in trees before but never as distinct as this instance. It appeared that the bottom clump of leaves had stolen from the rest of the tree, impeding the ‘blood flow’ of nutrients throughout this cypress. With the combined tree knowledge between my grandfather and me, neither could identify the circumstance. With the help of Heather Rhoades from Gardening Know How we learned that these low shrub limbs have been dubbed ‘suckers’ for their vampire like tendencies. 

Suckers can be common in trees that have undergone a stressful planting, transplant, or an inadequate environment. However, a low-stress environment, perfect water portions, and maintenance can prevent this in your community forest.

Although if a tree has already begun to grow suckers it is best to remove them as soon as possible. Heather Rhoades notes “Tree sucker removal is easy to do. Tree sucker removal is done in the same way pruning is performed. Using a sharp, clean pair of pruning shears, cleanly cut the plant sucker as close to the tree as possible, but leave the collar (where the tree sucker meets the tree) to help speed the wound recovery."

Whenever I saw a tree sucker I had thought it was an innocent commencalism relationship between tree and shrub. Now with new knowledge gained from Gardening Know How I now view these trees as a little more human knowing these giants get acne too. 

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  • Morgan, to me it appears that the young tree was freshly planted, and as so often happens, the plant went into shock, perhaps from lack of water. Maybe some of its feeder roots were so dried out or deadened that it did what most newly planted seedlings or saplings do, it let the upper part of the plant die in an effort save itself, and that meant mainly its roots. I call it "die back." Many such tree seedlings will sprout new shoots near the root collar at ground level. I have seen it often among seedlings and saplings that I have planted. On another note, I am so happy for you that you can enjoy quality time with your grandfather. He has witnessed a lot during his lifetime.
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