The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Can an apple with burr knot be saved?

Burr knot in an apple treeOne of our readers, Brian, sent me an email for help "or harsh reality" about his troubled apple tree.  He wrote:

"I was out pruning the rest of our trees this weekend and found some damage on our apple tree in the front yard that seemed to be caused by the burr knot.  It looks like water was able to get in where the knots were trying to form and it must have frozen and thawed and broke off the bark.

"The tree came from a place I wouldn't buy from again ( and it was a whip that had been topped and was bud grafted with supposedly 5 different varieties.  It appears all the branches have the knots forming and I may just be growing a tree that is the rootstock.

"What do you think?  Do you think I should just cut it down and try cleft grafting the trunk and start over?"

Young apple treeIt's always tough to pull out a fruit tree you paid good money for and babied for multiple years, and I have to admit I know next to nothing about burr knot.  Hopefully one of you can help Brian out.  What do you think --- does the burr knot on the branches mean the whole tree is rootstock?  Is it a goner?

Baby rabbits

(This post is in place of an update on Shannon's rabbits since life is still hectically busy down south.  Shannon does report that "The baby rabbits are eating voraciously," so hopefully he'll have more information in a week kor two.)

Start your orchard the easy way with tips in Weekend Homesteader: December.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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That is a bit curious.

Its impossible for me to know if the varieties are what they're suppose to be. Knots will form for several reasons, not just on rootstocks. On the branches, those may be scars where suckers were removed. Or the tree is attempting to overcome the damaged trunk by trying to root.

If there is healthy tissue around the trunk you might be able to get a good sharp knife and cut out the rot. Id go with that. Its the best way without giving up on the tree first.

Or if you want to do something drastic, you could pile dirt around the trunk and over the branches and allow them to root. If it survives, then cut off the rooted branches and plant them out.

If you don't want that you can just hack down the whole tree and let suckers come up, then graft onto the strongest next year.

I don't think it would be worth it to try a cleft graft on a trunk that might not be as healthy as it could be.

Sorry if I'm not much help, its very difficult to say anything definitively over the Internet with just a light description, and not being able to poke at the tree myself.

Comment by Anonymous Wed Feb 6 01:35:44 2013
Burrs Knot is a disaster imho. I have 5 apple trees all of which will now be replaced. I simply cannot find a healthy apple tree that has been grafted and is 10+ years old. Maybe there is some expert work out there. Obviously is given the length of time grafting has been around, but it hasn't found its way into the modern commercial apple tree business. As it's difficult to rely on seeds, I feel the best way to have healthy apple trees of known varieties is to take cuttings from existing trees. Stay away from grafted apple trees entirely unless you have limited space and just want a tree for a few years. Rant over except to say they are a con job.
Comment by Peter Day Thu Aug 6 10:00:40 2020

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