April 11, 2010

Graft and Corruption

This post is not about politics.  The title had you fooled, huh?  But it is about the corruption of a graft.

This graft corruption is blatant and out in the open and it's gone on for years right under the noses of our town officials.  I see it every time I drive to the center of town. 
This cherry tree's graft failed many, many years ago, and the strong white blooming cherry rootstock took over, leaving only a branch of weeping pink flowered cherry hanging on.  This is one tree, blooming in two different colors, and growing in two different forms, all from one trunk.

This is an old tree and the graft is about 5 feet high now, an indication that the roots just took over all the growing duties.  You can still see the diagonal slit where the weeping pink scion with its more delicate curved branches was inserted into the stronger, more upright big-trunked white cherry stock, back when they were both twigs.

The concept of grafting, a widespread and common horticultural practice, just flabbergasts me.  Trees don’t have an immune system like mammals do, so they don't reject foreign tissue.  Grafting is an asexual way of producing trees so that you get the attributes of the special tree you want, growing on the  strength and hardiness of plain old common species roots.  You just have to make sure the two types of trees, when young, have their tissues in contact for a period of time until they fuse.  When fused, the roots will supply all the nutrients and growth, and the branch stuck into a cut in the rootstock will supply the form and flowers and fruit.

Orchardists graft their trees all the time.  Apples won't produce "true" from seed, so they have to be asexually propagated in order to get the Honeycrisps and MacIntoshes you want.  If you plant the seeds of a Honeycrisp you get an apple tree, but not a Honeycrisp.  So apple growers must graft the cultivar they want onto a standard apple tree's roots in order to get exactly what they want to grow.  They even graft apple trees onto dwarf rootstock so they don't have to use tall ladders to reach the fruit.  Now that's convenient.

In fact, speaking as a mammal, it's weird.  The idea that you can simply combine two different types of beings by making their tissues touch, is amazing.  And given that nature wouldn't do this on her own, it's unnerving. 

Rose cultivars are grafted onto rootstock, which explains why my friend's lovely special white climbing rose bloomed red the next year, after some pruning activities got below the graft union.  She was a little surprised, and a little disappointed, at the complete transformation of her rose.

My Okame cherry was grafted, as all ornamental cherries are.  The graft union, where the pink-flowered desirable tree sapling was forced into contact with a plain old white flowered cherry trunk, looks damaged, like it was scarred.  It is a scar, the remnants of a wound.

I trust that this graft will hold, and my pink Okame tree will grow as intended, with no reversion to the form and color of its roots.

Meanwhile, in today's charged political climate, the double faced cherry tree in the center of town reminds me that graft is common, and corruption happens.


  1. Oh that tree would be so beautiful if only it wasn't so corrupt!

  2. Dear Laurrie, Browsing through Blotanical, as one does, I happened upon your weblog largely attracted by the title 'My Weeds are very Sorry'. Happily, I am not sorry to have discovered you as your postings, and I have now read back, are written in an amusing yet informative way which, I have to confess, makes for a refreshing change.

    As far as the cherry tree pictured here is concerned, the white is not only such a pretty shape, or would be without the pink appendage, but the blossom is, in my view, so much prettier. But then I rather dislike the bright pink which looks a little suburban and, if I dare say it, middle class.

    I have signed up as a subscriber in the hope of not missing future postings.

  3. Sylvana, some of the most beautiful things are corrupt (or bad for us)

    Edith, welcome. I'm so glad you found my blog, and thank you for the encouraging comments. I hope you continue to enjoy more posts (and thanks for the fave on Blotanical).

  4. Grafting blows my mind too. The corrupt tree is wild. It's amazing there's a part of the Weeping Cherry is still going.

  5. Sweet bay, I am going to learn more about grafting, it does intrigue me so.


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