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Tree watershoots

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What are Watershoots and Should I Get Rid of Them?

Watershoots, sometimes known as watersprouts, can be a confusing aspect of tree growth for many tree owners. Understanding what they are and how to manage them is crucial for maintaining the health and appearance of your trees. In this blog, we’ll delve into what watershoots are, why they appear, and whether you should remove them to keep your trees in top shape.

What are watershoots?

Watershoots are vigorous, upright shoots that grow from the trunk or branches of a tree. Unlike regular branches, they grow rapidly, and often at a sharper angle.

These shoots tend to be softer and more succulent compared to mature branches. They can appear suddenly, especially after heavy pruning or damage to the tree.

Watershoots are commonly found on fruit trees such as apple and pear trees, as well as ornamental species like maple and oak.

Why do watershoots appear?

There are various reasons why watershoots appear on trees:

Stress Response

Trees often produce watershoots as a reaction to stress. This can be due to factors such as over-pruning, storm damage, or root disturbance.

Hormonal Imbalance

The growth of watershoots is influenced by plant hormones such as auxins and cytokinins. When a tree experiences damage or significant pruning, these hormones can become unbalanced, triggering the growth of watershoots.

Growth Patterns

Watershoots typically appear during the growing season when the tree is actively producing new growth. They can grow quickly, sometimes several feet in a single season.

Watershoots vs. suckers

It is common to confuse watershoots with suckers. There are, however, distinct differences.

Suckers are shoots that grow from the rootstock or base of a tree, often below the graft union in grafted trees.

Watershoots, however, emerge from the trunk or branches above ground level.

Suckers can drain energy from the main tree, and often need to be removed to maintain the desired characteristics of the grafted variety. Watershoots, on the other hand, can sometimes be managed or used, depending on their location and the tree’s overall health.

Suckers are usually cut back to the root to prevent regrowth. Watershoots, however, might be selectively removed or managed depending on their impact on the tree’s structure and health.

Should I remove watershoots?

If watershoots are compromising the tree’s shape, blocking light, or weakening the structure, they should be removed. Removing them helps maintain the tree’s aesthetics and structural integrity.

Removing watershoots can direct the tree’s energy towards more desirable growth, improving fruit production in fruit trees and enhancing overall tree health.

In some cases, watershoots can be beneficial, especially in younger trees where they might contribute to the overall growth and establishment.

How to remove watershoots?

Use clean, sharp pruning shears or saws to make precise cuts. Disinfect tools before and after use to prevent the spread of disease.

Step-by-step guide:

  1. Identify watershoots and assess which ones need removal.
  2. Make clean cuts close to the trunk or branch without damaging the collar (the swollen area where the shoot joins the tree).
  3. If they are large, remove watershoots in stages to avoid tearing the bark.

Never attempt to remove watershoots from a tree where you would be required to work from height. Instead, engage the services of a professional tree surgeon to carry out the work safely.

Expert tips and advice

Be sure to regularly inspect your trees and perform seasonal pruning to manage watershoots and prevent them from becoming a problem.

Always consult with a qualified tree surgeon for specific advice tailored to your tree species and local conditions.

TH Trees Limited is on hand to help if you are unsure how to approach watershoots growing on your tree. For a no-obligation consultation and helpful advice from a qualified tree pruning specialist, call TH Trees Ltd on 01268 642 814.

Image: Syp, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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