Garden visitors in past years may have noticed the witches’ broom growing in the Scots pine (Pinus sylvestris) near the Garden’s entrance. Witches’ brooms are abnormally dense growth in a woody plant triggered by physical damage, insect infestation, a parasite, or disease. Well, ours hit the ground this week when its branch snapped. No surprise there – I put it on a scale and it weighed almost 30 pounds!
Frankly, I was surprised it stayed in the tree as long as it did. The spindly branch that held it was obviously outmatched. Exploration inside the mass of contorted twigs found a large amount of moss happily growing, along with what looked like an old bird’s nest.
This is very exciting for our horticultural staff. Many dwarf conifer cultivars are propagated from witches’ broom, as the abnormal growth form often continues in plants grown from cuttings or grafted cuttings. We’ve had our eye on the witches’ broom for years, hoping that we could create our very own cultivar. We would love to name it for Garden and Nursery co-founder, Mareen Kruckeberg. Until now, it was too high up in the tree to easily access. Not anymore.
We made many, many cuttings from the witches’ broom and hope that some will root, grow, and thrive as a new and interesting cultivar of Pinus sylvestris. It’s a long shot, but we can hope. We’ll keep you posted.