Is it okay for trees to kiss?

Baltimore Sun Sunday - - GARDEN - By Ellen Nibali

Q: I think of these (trees in the photo) as my “kiss­ing trees.” But is this healthy?

A: You’re on to some­thing. You’ve caught these two in the act of in­oscu­la­tion. Botan­i­cally, it means that two trees have grown to­gether, or grafted, one to the other. This hap­pens nat­u­rally when two branches or trunks touch, rub­bing against each other and wear­ing off the bark.

A cal­lous or in­fec­tion could oc­cur, and prun­ing off one of the branches is typ­i­cally rec­om­mended, how­ever, healthy self­graft­ing hap­pens, too. This abil­ity of trees has been per­fected by hor­ti­cul­tur­al­ists to cre­ate spec­tac­u­lar hor­ti­cul­tural sculp­ture.

Usu­ally in­oscu­la­tion hap­pens be­tween two trees of the same species but, judg­ing from the bark patterns, your trees are two en­tirely dif­fer­ent species. And, in­deed, the root word (no pun in­tended) is “to os­cu­late” which means “to kiss.”

Q: Why did my co­ral hon­ey­suckle flow­ers have a lot of strings stick­ing out of them last sum­mer?

A: Those pro­trud­ing “strings” are parts of the flower sex­ual or­gans. Ear­lier in the sum­mer, they would have been fuzzy with pollen. The fe­male stigma is where pollen is de­posited atop a slen­der tube (the style) that leads to the ovary where seeds and fruit re­sult. The pollen orig­i­nates from an­thers at the tips of long sta­mens, the male parts.

There are more male than fe­male to im­prove the suc­cess rate. Both project from within the flower so pollen can be dusted be­tween them from the com­ings and go­ings of pol­li­na­tors, such as bees, wasps and flies. Pollen is also dis­trib­uted by wind and grav­ity.

Search for more about pol­li­na­tors and nat­u­ral en­e­mies (the good guys!) on the Home and Gar­den In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter web­site.

Uni­ver­sity of Mary­land Ex­ten­sion’s Home and Gar­den In­for­ma­tion Cen­ter of­fers free gar­den­ing and pest in­for­ma­tion at ex­ten­sion.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Mary­land’s Gar­den­ing Ex­perts” to send ques­tions and photos.

ELLEN NIBALI/FOR THE BAL­TI­MORE SUN

In­oscu­la­tion oc­curs when two branches touch against each other and then grow to­gether.

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