May 3, 2012

Branching Out

My trees are branching out in some interesting ways.  A couple show some welcome growth, and another is kind of confusing.

First, the confusing one.  This isn't right.  Betula nigra, or River Birch, is a multi stemmed tree that usually forms clumps of two or three upright trunks.  This V shaped River Birch has a long slender trunk on the left, and is branching all over the place midway up the stem on the right.

From the opposite angle it's even clearer how confused, almost tangled, the branching is on one trunk, while the other is straight and unbranched.


It looks like two trees from a distance.  The upper leaf canopy is separated into two distinct forms.  The trunk(s) are hidden by the spruces that are in front of this birch, but go around behind the berm and you see this oddity.

It's healthy, it grows, but even barely leafed out in spring, it is starting to look too heavy on the branched side.  It is leaning too much and looking like it might break off to that side in the next storm.

Could some selective pruning help this situation?  I should simply take off the entire confused branched trunk at its base, and let the remaining straight trunk grow as a single stemmed Betula nigra. That's what I'm thinking.  The multi stemmed clump form is popular, but River Birches do grow naturally as single stem trees.

Yeah, that's what I'm thinking.  I need something bigger than my Japanese pruning saw.

The branching on another tree is not so worrisome.  In fact it's really encouraging to see that the little black gum, Nyssa sylvatica, is finally trying to stand up tall, and is sending up a leader.

I wrote about this tree here, showing how it had become saddle shaped because the top leader branch had been lopped off.  Black gum is a stiffly pyramidal tree and should never be topped.
then . .  in 2009
But it is now sending up a vertical branch, reaching up to re-establish a top.
now . . . in 2012
There is hope for a beautifully formed tree.  Just give it time.

And this is encouraging --- the little sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) that I moved this spring is not only leafing out, but has sent up a strong vertical leader.  The slender, light brown branch growing straight up in the center is new growth.

Branching out, branching up.  I love watching these trees grow into the forms they want to be --- even the confused ones. 

 

14 comments:

  1. Laurrie, no matter how many times that growing into forms happens, it's always magical, isn't it. Regardless of whether the trees are confused or not. You're growing some good-looking trees.

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    1. Lee, we tend to see trees as a uniform block of greenery out there, but each is an individual. Identical genus, same species, cloned cultivar, and yet each exhibits its own way of growing and being.

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  2. Nice tree varieties and pictures--thank you!

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    1. Benita, thanks and I'm glad you enjoyed my trees!

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  3. It's a little strange that your birch doesn't have a central leader. It's a bit anarchist or either very polarized - all left or right but no one in the middle. :o) Your other trees look great. I have a weird but beautiful dogwood that managed to even confuse an arborist. Maybe a bit of pruning is just what the river birch needs.

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    1. Tammy, this birch is beyond strange. River birches are kind of predictable, even a little common, and this one flaunts expectations. Why is it growing like this?? To torment me?

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  4. Tough call on your river birch. Yes, they are often clumpers, but this isn't a true clump, it's a single stem with a wishbone branch rather than several stems emerging from a single root ball. I understand your desire to lop off the oddly growing trunk, but sometimes removing such a large percentage of top growth can stress the remaining tree. I realize that doesn't help much. Maybe you could first try pruning some of the horizontal branches off the right hand trunk and see how that looks and grows.

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    1. Ellen, Thanks for your advice! You're right, it isn't really a clump from one root. I talked with an arborist today and he said the same thing ... don't take off half the tree, just trim where it gets branchy midway up and see how that goes.

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  5. I enjoy watching the trees leaf out, too; you can really see their shape or "bones" then. I don't know much about river birches, but I'm glad to see you're not going to cut off one trunk. Confused or not, I like the look of the multi-trunked birches.

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    1. Rose, thanks, I did not cut off the whole trunk after all, just trimmed the wayward side branches today.

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  6. Laurrie, I agree that you should prune first before you remove the entire trunk. River birches are such lovely trees and I imagine you can get the funky branches under control so the tree remains healthy and doesn't topple over in the next storm. BTW, I love your sourwood, it's on my wish list - it's too bad it grows so slowly.

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    1. Debbie, I hope you do plant a sourwood, it's such a slow grower you need to plant one today to see anything in the next years!

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  7. You must be thrilled to see the top of that black gum making a comeback. They are such gorgeous trees, you're very lucky to have one in your yard. I think your idea about selective pruning the birch is a good one. It looks a little unstable the way it is now and snow or ice could end up doing the pruning for you anyway.

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    1. Marguerite, I am amazed at the new vertical top growth of the little black gum. It's so rewarding to see after worrying about its funny saddle shape.

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