witches' broom seeds

Discussion in 'Maples' started by katsura, Oct 16, 2010.

  1. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Novato, California
    I finally found seeds on a maple witches' broom.
    I found 6 fat (no empty seed pod) seeds on my acer circinnatum
    'WB Hoyt' the other day. The tree is a classic witches broom with
    short internodes and foreshortened spatulate center leaf lobes.
    I have never found a seed on a palmatum wb although a friend
    Billy Schwartz, whom I call the 'father of witches' brooms' since
    he discovered 'Shaina', 'Daniel', 'Matthew', 'Royle', 'Jerre Schwartz'\
    (all named for his family members), tells me he has seen seeds on
    wb's. Outside of humans grafting them, how do palmatum wb's pro-
    pagate if they produce few if any seeds? A brilliant plant geneticist
    friend who is very much into maples told me that he believes maple
    wb's remain sexually immature and so do not produce flowers/seeds
    (the exception, of course, proves the rule) so I am asking forum
    members to keep an eye out for wb flowers/seeds and to share
    information/stories on such. Please make sure the tree is a definite
    wb; I have a forum friend who found seeds on his "wb" but the leaves
    do not look like a wb to me and I have 1 of his grafted trees and it is not a wb
    in my opinion. Please let me know if any of you have seen seeds on a wb?
    Thank you.
  2. Gomero

    Gomero Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Southwest France
    Hi Mike,
    Congrats for the discovery!
    When I am around the garden I always think of you but no flowers/no seeds in my WBs this year.
    I guess that what your plant geneticist friend says is probably right

  3. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Novato, California
    Hi, Gomero.
    Thank you for your good feedback and your fine email, my friend.
    I was just up in Sonoma county at a friend's wonderful maple nursery
    collecting seeds in our 1st rain of the season, but it was too wet and
    the seeds clung to my hands and would not go into the collection packets
    so I called it early and will return Tuesday. Seed collecting is best done
    in dry conditions!
    Be well.
  4. timnichols

    timnichols Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    East Flat Rock, NC

    So far I've found seed on two different trees that claim to be witches brooms. One is Brandt's Dwarf and the other is Tiny Tim. Both trees exhibit witches broom shortened center lobes, but only the Brandt's Dwarf seemed to be a true compact wb with shortened spacing between the internodes. I will let you know how the results turn out on the seeds! Good luck in seed collection!

  5. Goshiki4me

    Goshiki4me Member

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    Alliance Ohio
    Hey Mike. I have a Kandy Kitchen that produced seeds 3 years ago. It was the strangest clusters of seeds I have ever seen. Instead of 2 seeds connected making a typical samara, this cluster had 7 or 8 seeds all connected making a very strange looking cluster. Looking back, I wish I had taken some pictures but I guess I figured it would happen again. I have yet to see seeds on that tree, or any of my Kandy Kitchen trees again.
  6. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Novato, California
    Tim & Micah-
    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences about wb's seeds.
    I am planting the 6 seeds today after keeping them cool in the fridge.
    I soaked them in water and several of them sank hopefully indicating
    viable embryoes.
    Has anyone on the forum successfully germinated a witches broom seed?
    It would seem from the extreme rarity of palmatum wb seeds that Nature
    does NOT want to germinate wb seeds yet propagating them by grafting
    seems quite acceptable to Nature - interesting!
  7. Daniel Otis

    Daniel Otis Active Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    Ithaca, NY
    Hi Mike--

    Don't know if Kotohime is a witches' broom--I suspect not, even though it kind of looks like one. I was very surprised to see it in flower some years ago. If you look closely at the image, you can see that it has both male and female flowers, and the beginnings of seeds. They all dropped off before they were mature--too bad. I wonder, though, even if you never get seeds on a witches' broom--could you use the pollen to fertilize flowers on a more normal palmatum cultivar? Or is there any chance that pollen from a normal would produce seed via a female flower on a witches' broom? Finding out would involve lots of screwing around, but if we didn't like screwing around we probably wouldn't be growing these trees in the first place.

    Good luck.


    Attached Files:

  8. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Novato, California
    Good points, Dan, as always.
  9. John Hosie

    John Hosie Active Member

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    Gaithersburg, MD, USA
    Look at a Witch's Broom as something like a mole on a person. The growth is abnormal, possibly discolored, but the genetics won't cause a person's childrent to be mole-colored (though they may have moles of their own). I wouldn't expect any wonderful differences. But, to tell you the truth, as far as I'm concerned, a Japanese Maple is...well....a Japanese Maple - and that is good enough most of the time, in my book.
  10. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    A while back a forum member asked me if I
    had ever seen a "true" witches broom yield
    seed. Well, I have and in a particular instance
    the seed was not viable. Then again I know
    of another Maple that was clearly a witches
    broom while in its juvenile years that did
    not yield any samaras that once in its mature
    years did yield seed but the tree was no
    longer a witches broom either but became
    a standard broom once mature. I've seen
    Aratama do this and I've seen Shaina do
    this as well that when the trees were less
    than 12 years old we saw an abundance
    of stubbed middle lobes but what we did
    not see were stubbed middle lobes all
    over the plant. Over time we saw less
    and less stubbed middle lobes and from
    the normal growth we did see more
    incidence of samara and seed production.

    I have to believe that some of the witches
    broom Maples can yield seed but how
    viable will these seed be? In a certain
    Maple we saw that many of the seed
    were blanks with no development of
    the endosperm giving rise to the notion
    that that perhaps pollen from the male
    flower could not have been received by
    a female egg. Or could it be that the
    female flower in this case was either
    limited in its ability to self, or was
    incapable of selfing altogether. There
    are a few variables as to why in some
    witches broom Pines there was no
    seed development inside the cones.
    Yet, in the broom Pines seed were
    generally found inside the cones.
    In some cases, one trial I am aware
    of, seed from the broom Pines did
    not always yield broom like progeny.

    What I would have more interest in
    seeing and working with are Maples
    that remain a witches broom allover
    the tree that do yield viable seed.
    I would have had some real fun
    determining percentages of how
    many seedling offspring had the
    stubbed middle lobe and how
    many didn't in their first year
    of development. Then how
    many of the second year
    seedlings remained a witches
    broom, how many became
    a broom and how many were
    neither a witches broom or a
    broom. It does stand to reason
    that a chimeral limb sport can
    remain the same for many
    years, can revert even more
    and can return to normal as
    well. Usually it is the latter
    returning to normal growth
    that we see more frequently
    over time. This is part of the
    reasoning why some people
    in the past waited to see seed
    development from a limb sport,
    germinated the seed on and
    then determined which seedlings
    retained the appearance of the
    limb sport and which seedlings
    didn't. In yesteryear it was the
    seedlings that looked like the
    limb sport that were the most
    prized. Today, people would
    just see the limb sport and
    almost immediately graft it
    hoping it will hold. The problem
    with this approach is we have
    no way of telling for how long
    will this same limb sport be
    perpetuated and for how long
    will the limb sport later return
    to normal growth. We see
    the latter more often than
    we care to admit in which
    a particular variegated Maple
    may sustain itself by being
    variegated it its juvenile years
    lose all of its variegation before
    it gets to maturity. Or in the
    case of another variegated
    Maple see it well variegated
    for five to seven years start
    to show less and less variegated
    leaves by the time the tree is
    12 years old and by the fifteenth
    year be all green growth with
    no apparent variegation.

    We just cannot say with certainty
    what many of the proposed witches
    broom Maples will look like later
    on in years. For the present we
    like the stubbed middle lobe
    feature but how widespread
    will it remain in the tree and
    for how long will we see this
    trait from that Maple?

  11. John Hosie

    John Hosie Active Member

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    Gaithersburg, MD, USA
    A "witches broom" is simply a place where the growth is abnormal on the tree. As I had implied earlier, it still has all the same genetic makeup of the tree that was grown from seed. It just has something odd caused by its genetics in "this particular spot" on the tree. The only way to reproduce it is asexually. This may be done by graft, layering, air layering, or applying some rooting compound to a cutting and rooting it. Grafting seems to be the choice of most, as rooting by any process can be problematic. There is also a possibility that tissue culture would work to reproduce the base type, but I don't know if you will reliably get a witches broom from this process.

    Since the WB is caused by a genetic malfunction that causes a part of the tree to behave oddly, it is also often the case that the tree will repair it. This is what happens when you see a part of the grafted portion of the WB revert to the standard form of the tree. I see the same thing from other mutants, too. For instance, my Butterfly will frequently put out a branch that grows just green leaves. The Harlequin Maple (Variegated Norway Maple) is notorious for doing this, too.

    The genetic malfunction causes the growth engine of the tree to work oddly - kind of like a two gears both missing teeth sometimes slips a bit, causing the resulting movement of a wheel not to be what it ought to be. (I had that happen on my windshield wipers a while back. Very annoying.) Because it isn't working quite right, other functions of the vegetative material may also function incorrectly. This is why it may have trouble producing seeds.

    I have similar things happen with a number of different kinds of plants. There are varieties of Daylilies that have beautiful double flowers, but produce only stamen in the vast majority of its flowers. Still, every now and then - maybe one time in 10,000 or so - there is a seed-producing flower. I've seen the same sort of thing also with one of my iris varieties, where every now and then there are four falls instead or three. And, of course, perhaps the most famous of this sort of growth mutation would be the four-leaved clover.

    So, what do you do when you see the mutant reverting to form? I am merciless. I do everything I can to remove the offending part of the tree!!! It may start out with just plucking leaves, as I do with my Butterfly JM, but extreme pruning is also an option. I have a neighbor with a dwarf Alberta Spruce that keeps having one part of it grow like mad. So far, I've resisted the temptation to go over and rip out the offending branches from the trunk...but one of these days I will lose it.

    So, if it seeds, great. You have JM seeds that may contain the same odd characteristics and may end up producing a new tree that also contains a witches broom that may be grafted elsewhere. They also may be just the same old JM that was the source of the witches broom - or some other variation of it. They also may not be fertile, or may, in rare circumstances, contain just the witches broom genes and produces a new variant that is entirely, or almost, dwarf.

    Good luck.

    For me, I'm happy to grow any JM, and am particularly thrilled to have found that one of my seedlings, given just the right light characteristics, produces pure white leaves with just a light green veining. I am just hoping I can get it grafted when it gets a little bigger.
  12. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    San Joaquin Valley, California
    I know what you are saying and you get no
    argument from me. The problem is that we
    have so many others that have not worked
    with plants hands on to really know some
    of the ins and outs of what can happen.
    We can read of Al Fordham’s work with
    witches broom Pines but who all has
    gone to the next step to find out if any
    of those Pines yielded viable seed and
    if so, how many seedlings were also a
    witches broom and for how widespread
    and how long did they have the rounded

    All I've ever said is there is a difference
    between a broom and a witches broom
    from my experience with a few plants
    also. I questioned someone in this
    forum, not to his liking either I bet, that
    it could be argued that none of his proposed
    witches broom Pines were a witches broom
    at all but were what Harold Hillier called
    Pygmies instead. It gets back to an old
    discussion I had with another member of
    this forum that a dwarf form had to stay
    a dwarf for it to be called a dwarf (Hillier)
    and not later see that dwarf form become
    a semi-dwarf and still be able to call it
    a dwarf (Welch). Then to make Murray
    upset with me how is it possible that
    seedlings grown from a non grafted
    dwarf form can yield 22 footers in
    25 years as in the case of Pinus
    nigra 'Hornibrookiana'
    , seedlings
    grown on by the way from his Pine.
    To say that the genomes of the
    semi-dwarfs are the same as the
    as the dwarf form broom plants is
    being quite generous. Certainly
    in phenotype they are not the
    same as the parent plants.

    As far as the Butterfly of yours it
    is quite common for grafted and
    non grafted Butterfly progeny to
    yield return growth that not only
    is not variegated but there is also
    a subtle difference in leaf size and
    leaf shape as well. It is prudent
    to trim out all of the non variegated
    growth as there is a risk factor that
    the entire tree can become non
    variegated over time. I've seen it
    happen even in cutting grown
    Butterfly and Roseomarginatum
    from trees with no history of being
    grafted in their backgrounds. I've
    also seen a progeny plant of the
    same line of Roseomarginatum
    yield a limb sport of which the
    serrations and the cutting in the
    lobes were entirely different than
    the parent plant as well. The
    unique thing about this sport
    was the seed gathered from
    only the sport were germinated
    and grown on that yielded only
    about 5-10% variegated seedlings
    resembling the sport. The rest
    of the seedlings were all green
    and after three years of remaining
    all green were used as Summer
    budding rootstocks.

    Well done John.

  13. John Hosie

    John Hosie Active Member

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    Gaithersburg, MD, USA
    I am not overly concerned about discussions of dwarf vs semi-dwarf. I will leave that to those who want to put everything in its proper box. I'm content to keep my JM's in pots and planters.

    Regarding seeds, where do you think the dwarfs came from? I can't say about pines, but I know that with fruit trees, they are often gotten by seeing how large the plants grow i the first few years, and continuing to cross them. But regardless of how complete a dwarf you get, all you need is a random fertilization from a normal tree and you can end up with a normal sized tree.

    So I expect that the Picea Abies "Pusch" in my back yeard may cross with my neighbor's full-sized Norway Spruce, or with my Picea Abies Crusita, or Picea Abies Aurea and the resulting seedlings maybe having both red cones and red needles in spring, or grow 50 feet tall, or have a spruce with yellow needles and red cones on the ends of its branches - from the time it is 5 inches tall.

    These are extreme examples, but I think you get it. You've stayed with the rest of my rambling, so I'm sure you do.

    Regarding brooms, I'm really not clear on what you're talking about. The WB is an accursed part of the plant - where its growth is stunted, twisted, or otherwise distorted. But what the H__ is the other broom? I can only think of the Scotch Broom, and I'm sure you're not talking about it.
  14. katsura

    katsura Active Member 10 Years

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    Novato, California
    The 6 Acer circinnatum 'WB Hoyt' seeds I started this thread with all germinated Spring 2011 and I am watching the 6
    seedlings. 1 of them has produced 2nd and 3rd sets of leaves much much smaller than the 1st set. Palmatum witches brooms
    often produce new leaves much much smaller than the older leaves on the tree. None of my palmatum witches brooms seeded
    this year. I am asking forum colleagues to check their witches brooms now to see if any have seeds. Remember to make sure
    the tree has the WB characteristic of a shorter CENTER lobe on its leaves and that this characteristic is true for MANY of the
    tree's leaves not just a few. Pay especial attention to any circinnatum witches brooms you might have because yesterday I
    noticed after a careful examination the 'WB Hoyt' has AGAIN this year produced 2 seeds which amazed me.
    So please let me know if any forum colleagues have witches broom seeds this year.
    Thank you all!

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