Sunday, January 18, 2015

Witch's Broom

My friend, Jean B., asked last fall if I was no longer writing my blog and I said, “Oh, yes, I am still writing away.” Not! Truth is I have been so very, very busy lazy. I was beginning to think last year no one was reading my blog, commenting or didn't find it interesting so I just quit! So there! But, just like a bad penny, I am back.

Ever see one of these?

On Timberidge Trail

This is a great example of a broom or witch’s broom. These are point mutations that cause the formation of dense, dwarf growth and abnormal tree branching in an otherwise normal tree or shrub. I have seen them here on our pine trees. Brooms can be caused be a variety of factors including diseases, aphids, environmental stress and random mutations. 

Horticulturists and plant collectors utilize these mutations to create cultivars such as dwarf conifers and weeping trees. The Japanese cultivate miniature Bonsai trees from these mutations. Because of this, brooms are often a prized commodity and ‘brooming' or 'broom hunting’ is an active past-time for some people. Folks that find their first brooms are sometimes called ‘Baby broomers.’ Broom hunters are a focused lot and have been known to screech to a halt on a major interstate in their relentless pursuit of conifer conversation pieces.  So keep an eye out for brooms – and broom hunters!

But more importantly, I think brooming teaches us to really look at nature. Sometimes we miss a lot. Looking down we miss what is up in the trees. Looking far away we miss what is right under foot. Sometimes we are so rushed we miss the sweet smell of a flower, a colorful bird, the community of plants, the diversity of seeds and seedlings. But with a little practice, we can learn to notice. And we just might discover a new plant right under our nose, (and a lot of other wonderful things as well).