Recently, Rebecca Finneran, an MSU Extension Educator from the Grand Rapids area sent me a cool photo. The tree is a large Norway spruce near the Kent country Extension office.
This is a great example of witch’s broom. Witch’s brooms are growth anomalies that occur on various trees, most commonly conifers, Brooms can be caused be a variety of factors including diseases, aphids, environmental stress and random mutations. In some cases the growth defect is only present when the casual agent, say, a pathogen is present. In others, however, the growth mutation can be propagated by grafting scion wood from the witch’s broom onto a regular rootstock. In fact, this is the origin of many forms of dwarf and unusual ornamental conifers. Because of this, brooms are often a prized commodity and ‘Broom hunting’ is an active past-time for conifer enthusiasts such as members of the American Conifer Society. ACS members that find their first brooms are sometimes referred to as ‘Baby broomers’. Broom hunters are a focused lot and have been known to screech to a halt on major interstate in their relentless pursuit of conifer conversation pieces. So keep an eye out for brooms – and broom hunters!
With the late Chub Harper and the ‘Merrill broom’ tree at Hidden Lake Gardens, Tipton, MI