Sunday, October 20, 2013

Witch's Broom -- And Other Spooky Garden Tales! What is that Bump on My Tree?

Tree bump growth?

That's the Google search which revealed the eerie mystery while we sipped cocktails on Larry and Janine's secluded deck near the tip of the Mitten.

A witch's broom is a lumpy but benign growth which grows from a healthy tree.  Other than an unusual appearance, it has no effect on the life or growth of a tree.

Larry had observed the shaggy protuberance for years.  "Sometimes it's green, sometimes it's brown"  he laughed.  "Sometimes I want to cut the thing off!"  Curiosity led this gardener on a quick smartphone search during the witching hour.

Good thing my friend resisted the urge to amputate.  The tall pine might have looked tidier, but these hairy mutations are  rare prizes sought after by a small niche of botanist/explorers.  The brooms may be ugly, but grafts can result  in unique woody cultivar such as "Tom Thumb Gold" and "Compressa" (uniperus communis).

Smartphones are the newest garden implement.  A pocket-sized but powerful reference tool for identifying and capturing everything from apple trees to witches brooms.

 On a recent hike the built in camera was a useful aid in snapping and saving documentation of usual flora (and fauna) along the way.  It's unpredictable where the next interesting plant might crop up, but the phone is always ready-roadside or curbside.

Thus the phone was at hand when the Witch's Broom flew into sight.

Witch's Brooms are important to our green world.  They host a variety of organisms, some mutated, as well as moss and other species which thrive in the messy growth.  Aficionados of these woody outcroppings turn them into dwarf conifers, satisfying the insatiable demand for new and unusual plant offerings.  Pinkish pinecones perhaps?

The Witch's Broom may be ugly, but beauty comes in all forms. 

They're also genetic goldmines.

In Minnesota, plant fanatics travel from as far as Europe to climb icy trees in January--in search of the witch's broom.  Heck, they shoot them down from especially tall pines (not recommended.)

The name originates from ancient times when it was thought that witches had parked their rides in treetops.

Who knew that the hairy growth off the deck had such a
mystical yet commercial value?

Happy Hunting! 

Happy Halloween!

More Articles of Interest:

Fall Garden Cleanup and Pumpkin Patches

Burning Bush and Other Fall Follies

Turtlehead and Other Fall Blooming Flowers

Saturday, October 12, 2013

What are the black spots on Maple leaves? Tar Spot -- Worry not!

Why are the leaves turning black? Charred foliage is not part of the usual vibrant fall palette. Tar spot is the newest fungus infecting the leaves of Red Maple trees. Happily it's only a rash, although it would appear to be far more dramatic. Careful clean-up may eradicate the unattractive yet harmless blemishes.

Japanese Red Maples are unique, adding deep burgundy contrast to the greens and blues of their brethren.  Their lacy leaves and graceful limbs add texture and structure to the landscape. 

Typically demure, in late autumn these girls stand out. The show of bright red leaves is spectacular, floating downward just as snowflakes threaten to swirl.

Well, perhaps bright red with dark spotty accents.  Tar spot has hit this year, perhaps due to the abundance of rain and cooler temps. 

Whatever the cause, tar spot is harmless with no permanent effect on the tree but the fungus may overwinter in the fallen leaves.   
No sprays nor pruning needed.  With any luck, careful raking and removal will prevent a reoccurrence. 

Some of the leaves appear lace-like.  Viewing these specimens from below, the spider web
effect is lovely.

Even fungus can be striking in the right light. 

Happy raking!


Why do the Red Maple Leaves Look Brown? Spring Frost Damage to Ornamental Trees

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