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1250 Views 7 Replies Last post: Jul 9, 2014 4:16 PM by MikeHardman RSS
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Jul 7, 2014 8:10 PM

Need help identifying these trees... can anyone help?

Hi there (new here and unsure if I'm posting in the right section;  apologies if not)


There are two trees (I think they're trees but unsure) growing right beside each other in my garden.


There used to only be one tree, until a storm broke it down.. The tree was one of the best things about my garden because the branches hung down to the ground and my children were able to go inside and run around the trunk, underneath. Since then, a new tree has grown but it looks nothing like the tree that was broken. It has linear leaves in clumps, had fluffy buds before the leaves came out, and grows straight up- though the leaves hang down. (pics 1 & 2)


The second tree has just came from nowhere! It's really tough, has branches with pairs of opposing leaflets and there's seven leaves on each of those (all pairs on opposite sides with one on top, too). The edges are serrated and the new stalks are extremely bumpy. It also has one small cluster of buds(?). Really strong smelling-though definitely not a bad smell. (pics 3 & 4)


Should I be worried that they're growing right next to each other?

I've tried to give as much info as possible but I'm an extremely amateur (hopeful) gardner and  would love to know what these trees are so that I can take care of them.




Thanks in advance, any help is appreciated




  • Sarah,


    Sometimes when a tree get blown down or otherwise damaged in a storm, you can appear to get two trees as it recovers because it had been grafted originally - and the rootstock would have been different (though related) to the top growth.


    But yours are definitetly different trees.


    The second one (with pinnate leaves) is an elder, Sambucus nigra. As far as I can tell, it is the wild species, which can be spread around by birds passing the seeds (as opposed to a cultivar).


    The first one is more of a puzzle. The stem looks like Forsythia, which would indeed hang some of its slenderer shoots to the ground. But I have not seen one with such narrow leaves. In any case, Forsythia leaves are arranged oppositely, unlike yours. It also hints of willow.

    Could do with another pair of eyes on this...


    Should you be worried about them growing so close together?

    Well, I'd be able to comment better if I knew what the other one was.

    But in principle, they may get along fine. I have seen many examples of wild trees growing with trunks interlocked, and many of them seem to cope surprisingly well.



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    • Hi Sarah,

      Your second tree is a willow as Mike suggested. It is likely that you originally had one of the weeping species/cultivars of which salix x sepulchralis is the most commonly grown. This could be just young regrowth from that which may become more distinctly weeping with age but it is also likely that as Mike suggests the original plant was grafted onto a related non-weeping willow and it is this which is now growing away. The Elder may well have arrived as a bird-sown seed from something perching on your original willow - with the increase in light when its canopy went it then took off. Probably best not to have two trees right on top of each other as both will end up looking tatty!

      best wishes


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      • Fred,


        Thanks; I agree in it being best not to grow these two together. The problems will be:

        - extricating the elder (could be OK, but they can be vigorous rooters)

        - managing the willow if it is the rootstock (probably best to let it grow for a year or two, by which time its habit will be obvious). If it turns out to be non-weeping, you can decide to live with it or have a weeping cultivar grafted onto it (gawd knows where you'd get somebody to do that for you; I'd do it myself if it were mine; and I'd graft high-up to retain the standard trunk).



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    • Sarah,


      You're welcome.


      Summer is not the best time to move either of these species. But if you do, bearing in mind the time of year and the inevitable loss of a good % of the roots, expect to cut the top growth back by at least half. That's not only to give the (reduced) roots a fair shot at supplying the (remaining) leaves with moisture and nutrients, but also to give the tree a chance to re-establish a firm foothold against strong winds.


      You're lucky in that both trees are of a type that can:

      - root well from such treatment (given other suitable care such as hole preparation, temporary staking, shading, watering, etc.)

      - produce new shoots from low down (should the existing/remaining top growth not make it).


      They both root easily from cuttings in water, BTW (in good light but out of direct sunlight). And from the pruning-back you will have plenty of cutting material...  But if you give that a go, perhaps as a back-up in case the replantings don't work, don't leave the rooted cuttings in water too long or they will die when you pot them up.



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        • Sarah,


          There is risk in moving trees/shrubs at any time. Personally, I would leave it until about October. Then you know the hottest, driests, longest days are out of the way and there will be reasonable (if only!) rains. It also gives the trees good time to get over the shock and make new roots before next summer.


          You never know about the skills of a tree surgeon...

          For instance, several times I have come across ones who are happy to hard-prune Prunus (cherries, plums, etc.) in winter, oblivious to the risks of silver leaf (fungal disease) and the fact that July is the best time to do it to minimize risk of that infection (because the cuts heal quickest). [There's more I could tell you about silver leaf, but it isn't pertinent here.]

          Having qualifications helps: ask.

          If you're having serious work done - the sort of thing that puts house/cars/people at risk, make sure you see their insurance.

          For now, you can gauge how much confidence to put in your tree surgeon by asking him what the two trees are - now you know the answer!



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