Monday, June 1, 2015

Mulberry Truncheon: does it work?

(Contorted Mulberry)

A "truncheon," which sounds like something Captain Caveman might have used to beat people over the head with, is actually an old-fashioned form of vegetative propagation or "cutting" that's ocassionally useful for a variety of tree species including willow, hazel, certain dogwoods, and allegedly all species of Mulberry (which we would report is false.) 

These cuttings, alternately called "live stakes" are large branch cuttings, about the size of an arm, or the perfect size to beat someone over the head with. (A coincidence?) The leaves are removed, and the stakes are buried or driven deeply into the ground. 

In short, we have had no success in rooting a single truncheon from red or white Mulberries. I surmise that this information is simply a mistake rooted in the fact that there is a great deal of confusion over Mulberry species in the trade, and that only Morus Nigra can be reliably cultivated from truncheons. 

Details: 

3 years years ago, we tried planting 10 truncheons from 3 different mulberry trees, all red/white hybrids (morus rubrus x morus alba) as the two readily cross and both are present around our yard. These were planted in 5 different test locations in our yard. (This is essentially the common American Mulberry, the same species as "Illlinois Everbearing.") About half were more characteristic of white Mulberry, and the other half red. We hoped to rule out various soil and light conditions in our trial. 

At the time, there was very little information available about this propagation technique, and that which was available suggested that the technique would be a preferred method for propagating Morus Rubra crosses. I could find no experiments or reports from anyone who had ever actually tried the technique with Morus Rubra. 

Since then, we have tried a few more times in a more informal way, but to this point, I can safely say that although they have all leaved out and remarkably lasted much of the summer, none of them ever struck root and none returned the following year. 

I will report that we unintentionally had some truncheon-sized stakes of lilac and catalpa take root, indicating potential for those species to be propagated via live stakes. 

And finally, I tried 3 small live-stake cuttings of contorted mulberry*. These were too small to be true tests of the truncheon technqiue, however, none of these did anything that would indicate that success would be likely with larger cuttings. 

Hopefully this quick report will be useful to others looking for information on truncheons and live-staking. If you have any success or reports on truncheons with Mulberry or any other species to share, I hope you'll comment and I'll update this post to include your data. 

*Contorted Mulberry: usually labeled as 'Morus Nigra' by nurseries, but most likely Morus Austalis [Morus Bombycis,] or Morus Alba or some other single-sex Mulberry, as contorted Mulberry has widely varying reports of its fruiting habits in the nursery trade.) 



1 comment:

  1. I haven't tried truncheon-sized pieces, but I've had success rooting smaller cuttings of Elderberry, Red Osier Dogwood, and Autumn Olive. I've also tried Nanking Cherry, Serviceberry, and several Ribes species—which are also supposed to fare well, but so far no conclusive success (failure possibly a combination of using wood too small in diameter and not caring for the cuttings well). I have some Clove Currants and Black Currants that are still leafed out and appear to be alive from cuttings taken a couple months ago, but time will tell if they grow real roots—I'll try them in the fall.

    I picked up some fresh cut "brush" of what I think is a contorted Willow at the township dump; I stuck a bunch of small finger-diameter cuttings in the ground and some in pots—so far most have leafed out with willow-y leaves, we'll see how they hold up. Of course Willow is probably the most readily rootable, with its built-in rooting hormone. Cool post, thanks for sharing.

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