Ask the Experts, Tree Care & Trimming

Common Misconceptions About Tree Suckers (Epicormic Sprouts)

According to Southern Botanical’s team of ISA Certified Arborists, the correct term for tree suckers is epicormic sprouts. These are the clusters of new growth that appear on the trunks and branches of trees and often lead to misconceptions among tree enthusiasts and even seasoned gardeners. While these sprouts are a fascinating aspect of tree biology, they can be misunderstood. Our team of Arborists aims to debunk some of the common misconceptions surrounding epicormic sprouts and provide a clearer understanding of their nature and significance for clients.

Misconception 1: Epicormic Sprouts Indicate Poor Tree Health

One of the most prevalent misconceptions is that the presence of epicormic sprouts indicates a tree’s poor health or distress. In reality, epicormic sprouts are an adaptive response employed by trees to cope with environmental stressors, damage, or changes in their growth conditions. These sprouts serve as a survival mechanism and can actually contribute to the overall health and resilience of the tree.

Misconception 2: Pruning Epicormic Sprouts Harms Trees

Some believe that pruning epicormic sprouts is detrimental to trees. While it’s crucial to approach pruning with care and precision, when done correctly, it can benefit the tree’s health and structure. Pruning helps manage excessive growth and ensures that the tree maintains its desired form. Arborists use established techniques to achieve this without compromising tree health.

Misconception 3: Epicormic Sprouts Are Invasive or Weeds

Epicormic sprouts are sometimes mistaken for invasive species or weeds, but they are an integral part of a tree’s growth strategy. Unlike invasive plants, epicormic sprouts are a natural response of the tree to specific triggers, and they do not threaten the ecosystem. These sprouts are produced by the tree to ensure its own survival and adaptability.

Misconception 4: All Trees Produce Epicormic Sprouts

Not all tree species produce epicormic sprouts with the same frequency or in the same circumstances. The propensity for epicormic sprout production varies from one tree species to another. Some trees, such as live oaks and eucalyptus, are more prone to epicormic sprout growth, while others may exhibit it less frequently. Learn more about live oaks are particularly prone to producing epicormic sprouts here.

Misconception 5: Epicormic Sprouts Are Always Detrimental to Tree Aesthetics

While epicormic sprouts can alter a tree’s appearance, they are not always detrimental to its aesthetics. With proper pruning and management, these sprouts can be shaped to complement the tree’s overall form. In some cases, epicormic sprouts contribute to a tree’s unique character and can enhance its beauty.

Misconception 6: All Epicormic Sprouts Should Be Removed

Not all epicormic sprouts require removal. The decision to prune or manage them should be based on factors such as their location, density, and impact on the tree’s structure and health. In some instances, leaving a few well-placed sprouts can be beneficial, as they provide an extra layer of protection and adaptability to the tree.

Take Away

Epicormic sprouts are a fascinating and essential component of a tree’s adaptive response to environmental stressors. Understanding these sprouts and dispelling common misconceptions is crucial for informed tree care. Always consult a Certified Arborist with tree care questions. By recognizing the role of tree suckers and epicormic sprouts in a tree’s health and vitality, we can appreciate the adaptability and resilience of trees in the face of changing conditions. Properly managed, epicormic sprouts can coexist with trees, enhancing their survival and contributing to the beauty of our landscapes.