Water shoots - cause

Discussion in 'Woody Plants' started by KarinL, Jan 29, 2008.

  1. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Two trees on my property have a chronic habit of putting up what I believe are called water shoots, or water sprouts - branches that sprout straight upward from main branches. I diligently prune them out as often as I can, as they look bad and I believe they don't do what the rest of the tree is supposed to do - bear fruit in the case of the old apple tree, or bloom in the case of the ornamental cherry that is my street tree. But every year they seem to recur. It's a tiring task, and I'd prevent their growth if I could. What are they a response to - is it lack of water?
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    When there's lots of them on a pruned specimen the tree is trying to replace the growth that was cut away. One of the reasons to not top trees - it will try to grow back. Old, natural branching structure ending suddenly in a void caused by topping, that is being filled with water sprouts produces a particularly angry appearance. Such specimens are about the opposite of something beautiful. And they may be rotting out. Old, topped apple trees in this region pretty much invariably have serious decay issues.
     
  3. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Interesting - I had first thought it was a response to pruning, except the cherry doesn't get pruned (once or twice in 15 years, and not by topping, and actually I haven't even taken water shoots out of that one) although the apple does (it hadn't been touched for years when we moved here and there is something futile about apples borne so high that you can't pick them and have to wait until the fruit drops - which it does at the speed of sound, so the apples are already sauce when they land).

    What would you suggest as the cause on the cherry?
     
    Last edited: Jan 30, 2008
  4. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Hence the development of dwarf apple trees. Some trees produce some watersprouts anyway. A forest of them is likely to be associated with mal-pruning.
     
  5. smivies

    smivies Active Member

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    Or....it could be some sort of damage to the trunk. A fungal infection, physical damage, and graft failure are three more factors that will promote excess watersprouts.
     
  6. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Gee, sounds like the now-deceased cat using the tree as a scratching point some years back would qualify! Add to that what Ron is certain qualifies as mal-pruning, and voila! the cause becomes relatively clear. Poor mistreated tree... seems like water shoots are going to continue to be a part of its annual experience. Thanks!
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    By the way outlets here have fruit pickers for sale, maybe up there too. Long pole with a little basket on the end, below a hook. Looks like the cages put around utility lights to protect the bulb and enable them to be hung on things while working. Fruit is hooked and then drops into basket.
     
  8. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Got one thanks - Lee Valley has them. Tree is taller (or was :-)).
     
  9. M. D. Vaden

    M. D. Vaden Active Member 10 Years

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    In one way it could be considered a response to pruning, but it might better be described as a response to what's missing.

    Tree tops produce quite a bit of auxin. And if I understand right, it moves down and prevents a lot of bud and shoot growth.

    If tops or tips are removed, the natural chemical hormone factories are removed, and the regulating auxin goes "bye-bye" - it diminishes.

    Then the rest of the tree becomes unregulated or unsupressed by hormones, and responds with sprouts. Which, will soon after produce the hormone at their tips, because if you look at old apple trees that were topped and produced sprouts - if the sprouts were not removed again and allowed to become big, not many small sprouts are seen again.

    And then there are those few odd trees that get sprouts even if they are not topped, like crabapple, the base of filbert or corylus, etc..
     
  10. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Thanks, M.D. I am certainly familiar with suckers coming from the base - Hamamelis being the currently-topical exemplar of that!

    I remember some elementary botany from first year biology, with that apical bud suppressing lateral growth... I guess that it applies even to these trees that don't really have a leader in maturity.

    Nice to know too that if I don't get to pruning them out, some internal self-regulation will kick in again.
     
  11. MarcelB

    MarcelB Member

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    My experience with water sprouts tells me (and from what I've read over the years) that the secret is the timing of the pruning.
    Crabapples that are pruned in spring react with sucker and water sprout growth (some more than others). In an orchard that's managed by closely watching and removing some of the sprouts to direct the energy into producing larger fruit - which is what you want for apple trees in an orchard.
    However, you don't want that for crabapples. When crabs go into winter dormancy they have enough stored energy to grow their buds in spring. When you reduce the number of buds in spring by pruning, that energy has to go somewhere, and with crabapples, it's usually in water sprouts.
    If you prune in mid-summer instead of spring, your tree will be less likely to produce sprouts because it hasn't yet started to store energy for the winter. When a tree's growth stops in summer and begins to mature, its energy reserves are at their lowest and the new energy that has yet to be produced from ongoing photosynthesis will begin to go into winter storage for spring growth instead of producing more summer growth.
    You have a window of opportunity from the time growth stops and matures to the time it starts to store energy. That's the time to prune to reduce sprout growth.
    Summer pruning isn't as easy as early spring pruning because the foliage hides a lot of the branches and it's harder to get into the crown to prune. That, combined with traditional pruning for apple trees, has resulted in bad timing when it comes to pruning crabaples.
     
  12. KarinL

    KarinL Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Marcel, that actually tallies with my experience with this particular apple tree. Most years, when the kids were smaller, I was so disorganized that I pruned it when I could, but the last few years, now that they're more independent, I can get out and do the yard work that needs to be done when I think the time is right - and so I have pruned in spring, before leaf-out, when I can see the branches. And the water sprouts have been worse than ever these last couple of years.

    You've posted just in time - I'll try waiting till summer. Thank you!
     
  13. MarcelB

    MarcelB Member

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    You're welcome Karin.
    Check out the article in the Cary Bulletin entitled A Short Course in Phenology. It explains the importance of timing when pruning trees, in this case, hawthorns (which are closely related to crabapples).
    http://www.ltgov.bc.ca/gardens/cary/vol14_issue1.htm

    It goes on to explain how in Victoria they prune their hawthorns in July when energy reserves are low, just for this reason.
     

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