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Witches’ Broom

Reading Time: 2 minutes

At a garden just north of Houston and south of the farm, a gardener collects trees. He tends them and watches to see which ones do well in the heat and sometimes cold of his little section of Texas.

He especially likes oaks out of the mountains of Mexico that hold their green leaves no matter the time of year. They cross pollinate willy nilly in his garden making acorns that contain all kind of combinations.

I was in his garden last weekend and there among all the oaky leaves stood a pine.

I loved it right from the beginning.

Short with a mass of lob lolly pine needles making a ball on it’s barky trunk, I’d never seen anything quite like it.

It’s a graft from a witches’ broom, I was told.


It’s a long and complicated but quite interesting story.

Ever so often, for reasons that are myriad, like fungus, bacteria, or simply genetic abnormality, a branch of a pine (or sometimes other varieties) will suffer one of these agents and instead of growing long branches with properly positioned smaller ones, the tip will grow slowly and in multiple directions.

Kind of like a witches broom.

If there were such a thing.

Which there is if you are talking about a pine tree with an aberration.

Apparently I am the only person who has never heard of these things.

Or noticed them.

Even the New York Times thought these things were news worthy.

Since the late 1800’s, plantsmen have been noticing and propagating the dadblasted things.

These things made Sidney Waxman downright famous for Heaven’s sake.

Doesn’t this just make you want to scream, how in the world do you propagate a witches’ broom when the freaky branch is sitting high in up in a pine?

Well, yeah. Me too.

You shoot it out of the tree.

Heck yeah.

Then you try to get what you shot out of the tree to root.

Or try you hand at grafting, making sure that their vascular cambiums are touching.

Touching vascular cambium’s sounds, well, a little personal if you ask me. Especially after you’ve shot the branch but I could go the rooting route.

Imagine my surprise when driving the other morning and double tasking for pine trees with a bushy branch, just about a mile from my house, I found one.

I’ve got my shotgun in my truck and two shells. Hope that’s enough.  I’m pretty sure the homeowner won’t mind as long as I ask.

Who wouldn’t want to share their witches’ broom this time of year. Being Halloween and all.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, show your kids or grands what these little things look like. You know when you’re traveling and they are bored and need an eye spy game.

Mention Dr. Waxman, that will peek their interest.

Mark the coordinates on your GPS and text them to me.

Better yet, carry your shotgun and bring me back a sample.

I’m dying to have a witches’ broom at the farm.




2 Responses

  1. What a hoot! Now I’ll be on the hunt. Never mind that I have almost 100 pines bordering the perimeter of my little plot of ground…but NONE like that. What an awesome story! You find the most interesting things to share with us 🙂

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