There are a lot of cherry trees in our neighborhood. Most of them put forth pink blossoms. A few are white. There’s something about the pink ones that always strike me as more delicate and fragile than the white ones. And a whole row of pink cherry trees covered in flowers is gorgeous.
I noticed this morning that the new shoots coming up from the stump where a split from the trunk had been cut off some time ago were covered in only white blossoms, while the upper branches are all pink. I assume that the main cherry tree is actually a graft of a pink-blooming variety attached to a hardier white-blooming root, and that the new shoots are coming from the root stock.
My big, aggressive pink climbing rose started a similar growth pattern last year. While the grafts that produce huge pink roses has always been very fast growing and very bushy, after 19 years, something made the root ball start sending up new shoots. These new growths go even faster than the graft, though the branches are never as thick or strong. And instead of blooming enormous pink and peach double blossoms, it blooms in tiny white single blossoms. When they fully open they don’t even look like roses.
Lots of plants we humans find useful don’t grow “true” from their seeds. Many of these carefully cross-bred varieties aren’t disease resistant or otherwise are less robust and hardy then the wild, “mongrel” versions, so we graft shoots from the delicate and feeble versions that look the way we want or produce the size of fruit we want, et cetera, onto the root balls of those sturdy and vigorous mongrels. The hardy roots do the hard work of pulling nutrients and water from the soil, fend off underground bugs, fungus, and more, while the parasitic hybrid grafts are visible avoe, gathering sunlight which it uses to convert the carbon dioxide absorbed from the air into carbohydrates to store in the roots (and elsewhere) and new growth.
It is a symbiotic relationship, rather than parasitic, but when the root sends up its new shoots, I always feel as if the oppressed root is trying to live out loud and proud. So I’m going to let my rose grow both types of stalks for at least another year.
Because everyone deserves some time in the sun.