Orange Trees
Q.

Unusual branches growing on orange tree

Zone 29604 | Elena Sentier added on October 6, 2018 | Answered

Hi. I have an orange tree growing in a pot. I've recently noticed some new brunches with tripod kind of leaves and spikes growing from the main trunk. The y differ from the normal orange tree leaves. Are they parasites? Do I need to remove them? Thank you. Elena

A.
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drtreelove
Certified GKH Gardening Expert
Answered on October 6, 2018

The growth that you describe and have photographed, is undoubtedly "suckers" that have grown up from below the "graft" and are overtaking and dominating the foliar crown.

Orange trees are propagated with cuttings from desirable fruiting growth, grafted on to a different "root stock" which is more hardy and resistant to soil borne pathogens. The root stock is often sour orange (Seville orange), which has thorns and different looking foliage.

You should remove the suckers at the point where they emerge at the base of the tree near the soil grade. Or they might come from the root crown just below the soil grade.
Follow the thorned stems, one at a time down to the base and inspect carefully at the point where it originates. The site of the original graft is usually obvious as an enlarged area on the lower stem. The vigorous shoots will originate at or just below the graft.

Once you locate those points of origin, Make a clean cut with a pruning shears or small pruning saw, close to the parent stem or root crown. Don't leave a stub anymore than you have to, but don't cut into the parent stem.

After you have removed all the suckers from below the graft, leave the area exposed to the air, don't pile soil or mulch against the cuts or they will be more likely to become infected by soil borne fungus disease. Dab some pruning paint on the fresh cuts right away if you have some. (But this is not critical.)
Suckers like this are not "parasites" exactly, but the effect is much the same. They will draw from the plant water and nutrients, overtake and suppress the desirable growth.
You have a good eye and have discovered an important aspect of citrus management. Inspect regularly because more suckers will possibly occur. The earlier you cull them the less drain on the tree. As the tree matures this tendency to sucker will likely slow down.

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