Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Witches' Brooms Overhead

Witches' brooms are the cause of these strange, dark silhouettes high in the tree tops.
These dark, "fingery" clusters floating in the tree branches sure catch your eye... especially in the winter time.
 I didn't take note what kind of tree was hosting these witches' brooms, but I'm pretty sure it's a Juneberry tree (Amelanchier sp).
Witches' brooms are dense, abnormal growths of branches.

 These strange looking deformities can be caused by mites, fungi, or even mechanical injury.
Here is a picture of a smaller witches' broom.

 Apparently, it is fairly common for the brooms on Juneberry to be caused by the fungus, Apiosporina collinsii.

 Not very far away from the witches' broom decorated Juneberry trees, was this witches' broom in a Pitch Pine.
   This abnormal growth on the Pitch Pine manifests itself as a very dense, dark, bushy area part way up the tree.  In its present state the witches broom is somewhat interesting-looking, although it isn't very pretty.  Genetic mutants like these sometimes do actually have a pleasant use.  Can you imagine one?

   I planted a witches broom at our "old" (previous) house...see the Bird's Nest Spruce to the right of the front porch and left of the ornamental grass?
   Bird's Nest Spruce is a popular foundation planting which is propagated from witches' brooms on Norway Spruce. Cuttings from these brooms are grafted on other rootstock.  Various dwarf varieties of landscape cultivars, as well as some bonsai trees, originate from witches brooms.
   Can you see it now.... the wild, mutant miniature... high in the tree, waiting to be cut, brought down to earth, and grafted and trained into something beautiful?
Mite bitten mutants, anyone?
Or maybe I should say, "Could you make use of a mold molded mutant miniature"?
At any rate, there are some beautiful bonsai bouncing in the breeze...  high in the boughs of the forest trees.


  1. Dana, that's one heck of a tongue twister: " mold molded mutant miniature". Say THAT five times FAST !

    I wonder if the witches brooms in trees would make good shelter for birds or small animals ?

    1. Sybil,
      A Chipping Sparrow nested in our Bird's Nest spruce, so from my experience, witches brooms would seem like good bird nesting sites (for some birds). The branches are dense enough to make great hideouts for small critters.