Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Abies balsamea 'Nana'

Monday, May 12, 2014

Night of the living dead dogwood

Ok, so it's daytime, but that doesn't have the same ring to it. Besides, it's harder to take photos at night.

This dogwood (Cornus florida) was part of one of those Arbor Day Foundation packages that I convinced my father to sign up for when I was in high school. It grew to around five or six feet, but two years ago, rodents chewed the bark at the base, stripping a couple inches off all the way around. Yet this is the second spring that it has leafed out.

Looks totally normal, right?



And yet looking at the base....

I'm not fooling you. It's stripped all the way around. Yet it apparently has enough energy to continue putting out new leaves. As you can see, the bark has grown a little, but it is far from reconnecting with the roots. While the xylem may still be bringing water and nutrients up the trunk, I can't see how the roots have survived without sugars coming down the phloem from above. I'm amazed that it was able to survive for one year after having its bark stripped, let alone two.

I might actually be able to save it by grafting a strip of bark from above to the stripped area, if I ever get around to it. Otherwise I don't expect it to live another year, despite its seemingly tenacious will to live.

Have you had a plant survive when all signs pointed to the compost pile in the sky?

10 comments:

  1. What a tough tree! I've had a few plants come back from sure death but usually they get taken out of their misery because I'm a bit impatient.

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    1. If it was in a more prominent spot (and if I had been home for more than a few days in the last 2 years) I probably would have removed it already, but it's way down at the edge of the woods near the vegetable garden. I may just leave it as a curiosity for as long as it survives.

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  2. Love the title of this post!

    Poor tree, damn rodents. I have had a few of those miracles occur in my garden (thankfully), a couple of agaves come to mind. I think my impatience is a little more forgiving where they're concerned (I give them a longer chance to pull through) because I know I'm torturing them by planting them here in the wet PNW.

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    1. When experimenting with plants far outside of their comfort zones, it's understandable to give them a little more lee-way if they aren't thriving.

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  3. Your zombie dogwood is really kind of amazing. If it was rare, it might be worth trying to save with a bark graft. But it seems like a lot of work for something that can be found at just about any nursery. But then again, it would be educational.

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    1. If my parent's had a smaller lot, I would have already removed this plant on one of my few visits home in the last 2 years. But as this tree is growing at the edge of the woods, far from the house and not playing any significant visual role, it's not a high priority either way.

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  4. Ouch! Poor tree. Nasty rodents. Like Peter, I tend to pull plants when they appear to be terminal. I may not have any of the living dead in my garden but I have had "Lost" plants return, most recently a peach tree we uncovered after cutting back a giant Yucca elephantipes at the boundary of our property.

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    1. I normally remove plants that aren't performing as I'd like them, but I've only visited home for a handful of days in the last 2 years so this one has slipped by. It's not even really in a cultivated area, but growing on the edge of the woods. I saw the uncovered peach tree! I think it's happy to breath again!

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  5. I would put chicken wire around the trunk to avoid additional damage and let the tree to it's thing. You didn't expect it to survive the first 2 years so at this point you just have to wait and see what it can do, with or without a graft.

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    1. I like the way you think. It's not in a prominent or even very visible place, so it doesn't matter much which way it goes. The zombie dogwood can stay as a curiosity.

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