January 16, 2013
My Suicidal Tree
It is willfully, frequently and I think suicidally trying to come apart.
It is a weeping Japanese maple, Acer palmatum var. dissectum 'Crimson Queen'. Every winter it splits apart at major intersections. It does not simply drop branches or lose limbs. It cracks up in the middle with a very specific intent to kill itself.
The first damage was fixed last year with a stainless steel bolt, and it saved the tree, since both halves of the dissected trunk leafed out last summer and the tree looked fine. The bark is already starting to grow over the bolt. I took a major branch off below the wound, but that was to limb it up for looks.
The bolted trunk is the major stem, but now, this winter, the largest branch that arches to make the canopy has cracked. More bolt surgery is needed to hold this latest split together. And you can see a dark wound where a large branch tore off below the split branch as well.
The site of the torn branch needs to be cleaned up. I have to cut off that ragged piece. The callus that has formed to seal the edges looks healthy, though.
Are weeping Japanese maples inherently defective? Are they overbred, over-modified plant oddities like dogs that have health problems because of highly selective breeding? I wonder.
This tree is gorgeous, and I am sure it was bred long ago for its weeping habit and contorted branches. I love it in its spot in front of my house. But it seems to have been developed to fall apart.
You wouldn't know from these pictures last spring that the entire trunk was held together with hardware.
It fills the square in front of the open porch. Later in the season I pruned it quite a bit to reveal the curvy trunk and branch structure, although the steel hardware, healing wounds, and shorn branch collars didn't look that great when exposed.
But does this tree want to be here?
It weeps, and that seems melancholy. It is trying to kill itself, and that seems alarming.
I'm starting to feel very bad about bolting it back together all the time against its will.