Is it possible to reattach broken branches of a tree? Ask an expert

The gardening season is almost over, but you may still have questions. For answers, contact Ask an Expert, an online question-and-answer tool from Oregon State University’s Extension Service. OSU Extension faculty and master gardeners respond to inquiries within two business days, usually less. To ask a question, just go to the OSU Extension website, enter it and include the county where you live. Here are some questions asked by other gardeners. which one is yours

Q: Roofers recently snapped a main branch off my Japanese maple. I didn’t reattach it to the fault line until the next morning. I use a giant paper fastener to reattach it to the break line that runs down from the top branch break of the trunk about 4 inches. I used black electrical tape to tape along the 4 inch score line on both sides. I tied it tightly over the knot to try to close the knot off the trunk.

However, there is still room at the branch break. Is there some kind of astgoop that needs to be filled in where the branch break is in order for it to merge back?

Also, a smaller branch broke off and I just stuck it in the dirt, so hopefully it will start. If that works? Any tips, advice. She now has beautiful bright red leaves. I have lovesickness. – Lane County

A: It is difficult to tell from your pictures how much of your tree was damaged in this accident.

There is a useful visual guide published by Texas A&M University called After the Storm: Can my Tree be Save that might help you assess the likelihood of your tree surviving.

There is also some very helpful information in this article from the University of New Hampshire. Is there a way to salvage a branch that broke off one of my trees?

According to the article: “It is rarely possible to successfully reattach a broken limb. Trying to wire or tie them back to the main line is almost always a waste of energy. Unlike humans, woody plants are unable to heal damaged tissue. Instead, they compartmentalize wounds with layers of cells that prevent the damage from spreading further. That way the damaged wood won’t grow back together, and even if the branch can survive, it will be very weak because its vascular system has been severely compromised.

Some gardeners may also wonder if it is possible to root a broken branch. Unfortunately, large branches cannot be fully rooted, but a few small branch cuttings can be saved. While it is possible to grow many types of trees and shrubs from cuttings, it is not an easy task.

Very few species root from cuttings stuck directly into the ground. Potting them up and using rooting hormones and some sort of propagation chamber to keep humidity high is almost always necessary. A greenhouse with a fog bank is ideal, although technically simpler options like placing potted cuttings in a clear plastic bag or using trays with clear plastic domed lids can sometimes work as well.”

There is additional information that you may find useful if you follow the article linked above. – Carrie Falotico, master gardener of the OSU expansion

Red maples

Red maples are often very colorful in autumn. Archive photo.

Q: I live in Scappoose and am hoping you can recommend a landscaping tree that will provide shade for our west facing home. The tree is intended to replace a silver maple tree over 40 years old that was felled in January due to breakage.

The tree would be planted in full sun, 20 feet from a red maple over 40 years old and 20 to 25 feet from the house. A tree that is drought tolerant once established is preferred.

Our local nursery has two red maple cultivars I’m considering: acer ‘Sun Valley Red’ and acer “Autumn Fire”. Are these considered a weak tree? My concern is that these may have silver maple in their makeup, which I think makes them more fragile. Also, one site noted that ‘Sun Valley Red’ does not tolerate wind. Take that as a concern. Any input is appreciated. I’m not a fan of maple, but I appreciate something with fall color. – Columbia County

A: Red maples, acer rubrum, are named after the red flowers. “Likes sun, is very tolerant of soil but prefers slightly acidic and moist conditions (occurs naturally in low, moist areas, hence one of its common names, swamp maple). It may not be particularly urban tolerant and tends to form surface roots.” This quote is from Oregon State Landscape Plants. These pages contain information on many commonly available trees in this area. I appreciate the details included.

“Autumn Fire” is a acer x Freemano, a natural and artificial mix between Acer rubrum (red maple) and Acer saccharinum (silver maple)”, after the landscape plants. Continuing reading here on the Oregon State Landscape Plants page, I see an entry that you may be referring to. The red and silver maples have crossed enough that many of these named trees have genetics of both species to varying degrees.

I suggest you visit nurseries to see what plants they have available now and which ones they can order especially for you. I’ve spent hours researching trees online only to find that my favorites aren’t for sale in the size I want. Also, learn how to select a tree with healthy roots and how to perform root pruning at planting time. Potted plants often have imperfections, some of which can be corrected before planting. WSU Myths, the section on planting techniques, is a good place to start. In fact, WSU Extension Planting Trees and Shrubs is easier to understand because of the photos.

They mention that the silver maple was removed due to “breaking”, which I believe is due to excessive snow or freezing rain. Red maples are also prone to snapping, as documented in the Willamette Valley after the February 2021 ice storm: the guidance provided in EC1438 (above) is generally good, and a range of trees of different sizes are listed. I would only recommend not planting a flowering bulb as it is also prone to breakage. – Neil Bell, OSU Extension gardener, retired

Oregon Extension provides excellent help in selecting trees in EC 1438. Trees sorted by size are listed here. – Jacki Dougan, master gardener of the OSU expansion

Ask an expert

potatoesOSU Extension Service

Q: I am a first time potato grower. My potatoes look like they have scarlet skin, almost like dry skin, as well as random darker spots that I can’t tell if they’re normal or diseased. – District of Linn

A: It doesn’t look like there’s anything serious wrong with your potatoes. If any of the dark areas are soft, either use these spuds immediately after removing the soft area or discard them. Don’t store them with healthy potatoes.

The scarlet potatoes are a different variety. Did you grow red potatoes there last year? There were probably some little ones you missed. We call these bonus potatoes.

The rough skin looks like “elephant skin” which can have a number of causes including Rhizoctonia. This does not affect the edibility of the potato.

None of the random darker spots look serious, especially now that they’ve been harvested. It would be rare to obtain a home harvest that is completely clean and perfectly formed. That looks like a pretty good harvest to me.

This expansion publication What’s Wrong With My Potato Tubers? may be of help to you. – Signe Danler, OSU Extension Online Master Gardener Coordinator

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