This section began innocently enough as a simple info blog about jujubes. But during the dormant winter periods with no live action to write about, I went back to my roots (ha!) to write more on soil, biochemistry, and soil microbiology in general. I found myself wanting to keep going, and this blog was becoming less and less jujube-specific.
Thus it made sense to restructure everything.
This blog is now The Biosphere Blog, where I will continue writing about these subjects very dear to me.
(And here is my passion project From Soil to Fruit, a combination of the two and very much a work in progress. This is where topics in this blog are arranged in a more structured book-chapter format, to be explored in far more detail.)
I always keep back a few trees every year. As soon as the last bare-rooted tree leaves for a customer, these trees too are packed exactly as if going in the mail. They do not see the light of day, and are completely untouched and undisturbed the whole time it takes for the last customer to receive their order.
Why? To show that I have skin in the game — I call these my ’skin-in-the-game trees’.
Last year there were delays with Australia Post with deliveries into Victoria specifically, but this year was even worse. For two ladies in Melbourne suburbs it took — I kid you not — weeks for their trees to arrive. One took 28 days and the other took 31! (The third worst was 20 days, also to suburban Melbourne.) Yet other orders to the same general areas, posted the same day here, were arriving in about ten days. Why these two with such bad luck?
Stressful times indeed, not helped with tracking showing these trees apparently not going anywhere. One order was stuck in a suburban depot for weeks, just kilometres from one lady. The other was apparently in Sydney for three (!) weeks, then in Melbourne for another week.
Today is the 19th of October 2021. Please, if you’re relying on online shopping for Christmas 2021, for anything, do seriously get this done now as the backlog and delivery times may only get worse. I’m currently in the process of organising more reliable alternatives to Australia Post so this never happens again.
Now jujube trees are tough, but even I was having concerns. Especially as I had copped so many delays at my end as well, and trees were already leaving two weeks later than usual, which I didn’t like at all. But at least I could sneak a peak at the skin-in-the-game trees here, see positive signs, and offer some genuine hope that their trees would survive.
The final ending is still unfolding. Each lady ordered two trees each, and both orders had arrived by end of September. At time of writing, each has one tree very much in the clear. And each has their other tree showing very encouraging signs that it will pull through too. We’ll know for sure in another week I reckon.
Both ladies know that I stand by my trees, and I have offered either a refund or replacement tree next year, whichever their preference, should it come to that.
Now, we are easily a full month ahead of Melbourne here in Wollongong climate-wise. Trees break dormancy earlier, flower earlier, and so on. This was especially evident when viewing the photos these ladies have sent just today and yesterday. My skin-in-the-game trees were potted up the day after the last lady received hers, and it is incredible how more quickly the ones here have responded compared to theirs.
I had snuck a peak at the skin-in-the-game trees when the ladies’ trees were about a week overdue, and they looked good at the time. They had the tell-tale red flush along their trunks that signify their awakening, and some were also budding. Now for most bare-rooted trees this is not good, but for jujubes, meh! Like I said, these trees are tough. But wow, was this being pushed to the limit this year…
So I closed the box and didn’t look at them again until 1st October, the day after the last delivery. I must admit it was a bit of a shock when I did — those buds had developed into shoots, but of a very sickly yellow colour — the colour you’d be too, having been stuck in a cool, dark box for a month.
The Li and Suimen were the most advanced in growth, and looked the worst:
The Chico wasn’t too happy either, but did have a faint tinge of healthier green not too obvious in this photo, but it is there:
The Si-Hong was the greenest of all, though still not the best:
These yellow leaves are not normal. A jujube shoot looks more like this:
and that was the colour I had seen that one time I checked on the skin-in-the-game trees.
But remember that these trees had been bare-rooted all this time (though the roots were kept cool and moist the whole time). Now, however, they were well out of dormancy and leafing up. This leaf growth was being fuelled solely by all the carbohydrates and other nutrients that had been laid down in the (big, strong) roots and trunk during the growth season and just prior to leaf fall during induction (the first stage of winter dormancy).
These shoots were growing, but in the absence of light there was no photosynthesis to replace the food reserves fuelling that growth. The trees couldn’t just stop growing now — once dormancy is broken it cannot be reversed until the winter signals come back — but without photosynthesis to fuel growth, a tree must draw on other reserves, like its new shoots. Those shoots were fading as the green chlorophyll pigments were broken down for the magnesium they contained, needed for the production of the energy molecule ATP (adenosine triphosphate). The nitrogen and other nutrients in the leaves were also drawn out and repurposed elsewhere.
I keep saying this, but these trees really are tough — I heard of a fellow who left a bunch in a pile of wood shavings all season, and they flowered, fruited, and lived to tell the tale! — but toughness can only go so far. All three groups of trees needed sunlight, and soon. So as soon as I knew that the last lady to receive hers had planted them, I planted mine the very next day, on Friday, 1st October 2021 to be as consistent with them as possible.
Photosynthesis needs two things to get started: sunlight and water, and I did what I advised the ladies to do — placed them in full sun and gave them a really good drink, followed by a good watering every day or two depending on drainage and the weather. There was nothing more to do but wait.
Here are before and after shots of each tree. The before shots were taken on Friday, 1st October 2021, and the after shots were taken this morning, Tuesday, 19th October 2021. They are completely unrecognisable, and in a good way!
From the photos I’ve seen of the two ladies’ trees which are well in the clear, they are about two weeks behind in development compared to these above. Of the two other trees, if they come good, they’ll be about four weeks behind in development. This would fit with the difference in climate, and hopefully this account will have a very happy ending for all.
Back in 1st September 2020 I began a new category: “Life of a Ta-Jan” with the intent of following a new Ta-Jan as it left dormancy, budded and grew during its first season after grafting.
And then I had the idea of not only recording growth above ground, but below ground as well — and so began my troubles!
You see, I broke two cardinal rules in experimentation: one is to never have more than one variable at a time, and the other is to do some practice runs first so as to iron out unforeseen problems. I paid the price big-time as my plan was literally last-minute and rushed, with time never on my side to fine-tune anything!
I so wanted to record root growth, but how? A see-through pot of some description was the obvious first point, but then what? Growing medium itself is not transparent. I had neither the time, materials, nor expertise to set up elaborate systems such as hydroponics or aeroponics, which are still enclosed and non-transparent environments requiring workarounds to see into them anyway.
So what else does one do when dreaming up a last minute experiment, but to break the rules, cobble together some lame set-up, wing it, and hope for the best!
The Lame Set-Up
I went looking for, and found, the ‘perfect’ (!) ‘pot’ — the 30L plastic container in the photo below. The Ta-Jan didn’t exactly have a root ball, but this was a good size, I thought, for such a one to eventually grow into over a season. And how much fun it would be to watch this in real time!
Holes were drilled in the bottom for drainage, and I then potted the tree in my homemade potting mix, trying really hard to have as much of that main root flush against the container side and as visible as possible through the medium. Ha!
Roots of course like it dark, so the plan was to cover the container with black plastic that could be removed easily for observation — ideally of new roots branching out and along that see-through side. Ha!
Broken Rule No. 1: More Than One Variable
I should never have used this tree when I did. I had deliberately held it back from planting after it had broken dormancy, so there was always the risk that any future poor growth would be due to this. Adding an untested ‘pot’ to the mix was an extra variable which complicated matters and made any results less definitive.
What I should have done was set everything up over winter with a still-dormant tree, in a ‘pot’ that had previously and successfully grown another plant.
Broken Rule No. 2: No Practice Runs
If I’d have thought to set this up over winter I’d have had plenty of time to fine-tune the inevitable problems that came up, such as testing it on a non-dormant plant of similar size, and devising the best way to position/anchor the jujube tree in said ‘pot’ (that one really needed more time and testing!).
So what exactly happened?
The tree was potted up on 27th September 2020 (Day 0), and watered. I was fascinated to see the ‘pot’ drain to a container capacity-determined level as described here (and which is evident in the above photo, taken on Day 0). Everything seemed fine for a few weeks, but then I had the feeling that something wasn’t quite right. That water level never seemed to be as low, but at the same time we were experiencing many days of rain right through October — 148.5 mm for the month by our gauge! Every other pot about the place was likewise saturated, why should this one be any different?
Other distractions (otherwise known as ‘life’ I believe!) came and went, and strange as it sounds to write this now, this really wasn’t that uppermost in my mind to investigate further. But by 7th November it was very clear there was very much something wrong. The leaves appeared to be in stasis when there should have been a burst of growth going on by now. They were still a vivid green to the casual eye, but a really close inspection showed problems.
Here is the very tip of the trunk on Day 0, showing very promising new shoots developing from that mass of green buds:
And here is the same tip on Day 41, almost six weeks later. My apologies for the appalling quality of the photo, but even so out of focus it’s clear that that tip is very brown.
Here’s that same tip in profile, and the green streaks along the trunk are my scrapings looking for signs of life, as evidenced by the still green sap underneath:
Day 0 for comparison:
What Went Wrong?
Despite what I said above about introducing unnecessary variables that would complicate any conclusions, I was absolutely convinced that this was not the result of holding back planting of this tree. I always keep back a small number of trees every year for the very purpose of not planting any out until every single tree shipped out had been received and itself planted out — I call them my ’skin in the game’ trees. I can never prove it of course — which is why it so important to have as few variables as possible — but deep down I know this wasn’t the reason.
I did notice that a fair bit of water suddenly flowed out from underneath when moving the ‘pot’. At first I attributed that to the shape of the container, with its bottom above a thin-edged wall the whole thing rested on, creating a chamber between the base and the ground that could trap water. I had always observed water flowing out after watering, but what if it was waterlogged regardless?
Well, there was only one way to find out! And yes, the deeper I dug into the ‘pot’, the wetter/more mud-like the medium became, and the more it smelled of something very much deprived of oxygen. I’m not sure how clear it is from this photo, but this was one sodden smelling mass:
I let this air-dry for a while, and after mixing in some hydrated coir chip:
had a much drier, more aerated and fresher-smelling medium again!
In between resurrecting the medium, I examined the root by sequentially cutting small pieces off the end:
and examining the distal (furthest from tree) and proximal (closest to tree) ends of each of those:
Here I was looking for signs of life — if the root was waterlogged it would have been deprived of oxygen and either dead or dying, as roots need oxygen for cellular respiration just as we do.
I was certainly encouraged by the more white appearance each end had the further along the root I went, though I went back 5 cm to find this! For comparison here are the very white extreme distal tips of the same rootstock variety on another plant (I barely had to cut the ends of these to reveal white).
I submerged the root in a solution of plant-starter hormone mix — if this encouraged meristem tissue to develop and differentiate then all the better, as root growth only occurs at the tip. The tree was re-potted with the resurrected medium and watered with the hormone solution.
The Ta-Jan is small and I had the idea of repotting it into a 4 L Air-Pot® container. This size is actually called a propagation tray and designed for, well, propagation and seed-raising rather than long-term growing of anything. But this root needed air and a well-drained medium for increased chances of recovery, and this container was the perfect size (as was the Ta-Jan!), designed for aeration, and I had nothing to lose.
Of course, using this very container is again another variable — should this tree survive I will never definitively know whether it was the Air-Pot®, or the tree, or both in combination, or whether simply repotting in any aerated medium in any well-draining conventional pot was all that was required.
It was repotted on 7th November, and today is the 24th November, about two and a half weeks later, or Day 58. Miserable-looking little thing isn’t it?!
But those ‘transplant shock’ trees looked like that too, and they have all pulled through with bright green growth coming back.
There’s still green to be seen along the trunk, so time will reveal whether this little tree pulls through too, or not! (The browner scrapes you see are older ones that are…healing?)
And maybe, just maybe, this little bud at node 2 still has life in it, though it is nothing like its former self:
I don’t regret this going so wrong, as it’s all learning and experience whether good or bad. But no question I’d do it much better next time! Starting with bigger and more drainage holes, and testing the effectiveness of these well ahead of time. Or maybe to ditch that approach completely, and explore hydroponics as an option, but with a view to making observation non-intrusive.
I has intended for this Ta-Jan to be the 2020 blogging tree, and am hopeful that it still will be. But I do have a back-up tree in case — the very same sleepy Redlands photographed in that post which has since burst into life. Trust me, I have no special experiments planned for him!
Back on the 22nd September 2020 I did a photoblog post showing the two years of root growth of a three-year-old Li, Ta-Jan, Lang, and Chico. I was re-potting them in Air-Pot containers anyway, so why not share what they look like beneath the ground — plenty of people would love to know this! (There were also a three-year-old Sherwood and Si-Hong similarly photographed and repotted, but not shown in that post, and a one-year-old bare-rooted Li, Li #2 and Shanxi-Li similarly potted — more on all these below.)
Here is a composition of all six three-year-old trees side-by-side (the one-year-olds were not photographed):
These six are in Air-Pot containers in this very order, which has some importance as we’ll see.
This photo reveals two big no-nos to the initiated: one was that the trees were very much leafing up, and the other was that the roots had all potting medium removed.
Firstly, deciduous trees, if they are to be disturbed at all, are always best replanted whilst dormant to minimise stress. Dormant trees maintain just enough low-level cellular respiration to keep alive, and are not actively acquiring external sources of energy, water or nutrients. This is why a dormant tree can be kept out of the ground for a while, so long as the surrounding environment is cool and moist (not wet). A cool, moist environment both prevents the roots drying out as well as signals to the tree that it is still enduring winter.
Secondly — for any non-dormant plant — the roots themselves should be as minimally disturbed as possible when replanting, and ideally surrounded by as much soil as possible. This is partly to protect (as much as possible) the very delicate root tips, as these are the only parts of a root that grow and develop root hairs. And partly to maintain (as much as possible) the very important rhizosphere and microbiome that may have taken months and years to establish.
(Dormant trees can tolerate root disturbances, and even root trimming, as they rely on stored energy reserves to break dormancy in spring. This energy fuels the growth of new leaves and roots, which allows the plant to again photosynthesise and uptake water and nutrients.)
But, science! I really wanted to show just how tough these trees are compared to many other deciduous species, hence wasn’t phased in the least about the late potting-up. And there was no other way to show the rootballs without removing a good chunk of medium first.
So, having photographed and repotted six three-year-old trees (and that is the subject of another post eventually), and potted three one-year-old bare-rooted trees, I gave them all a good drink every couple of days, and thought nothing more of it.
All nine trees carried on looking healthy and thriving over the next week, and then, overnight, the Ta-Jan looked like this on the 29th September:
The Si-Hong and Sherwood nearby were similarly sick-looking, and I was paranoid enough to see very early signs of ‘the affliction’ I may otherwise have not noticed in the Lang and Li also nearby. Yikes! What was going on? At first glance (from a distance) it looked, from the stunted-looking, dark green leaves that it was a phosphorus deficiency. Which I’d never seen, mind you. And which made no sense anyway, as these trees had not only recently been given a hefty dose of phosphorus-rich chicken manure, they were barely in leaf enough for any deficiencies to show up. On a closer look it was more apparent that these leaves were shrivelling up and dying.
But why? Time to think!
My immediate next thought was that the potting medium was somehow responsible. All nine trees had literally been potted up in an identical fashion all within hours of each other, which was a significant common factor. But again, that didn’t really make sense as I had used the same homemade concoction as here, and was quite happy with it last year (I did tweak it slightly, which I shall write about later, but that tweak wasn’t to blame).
The first thing to do was to assess all nine trees individually and look for clues that way.
Of the three-year-olds, the Ta-Jan, Si-Hong and Sherwood were by far the sickest looking. The Li looked a tiny bit upset, the Lang a little less again, and the Chico was powering on having not skipped a beat at all. All three of the one-year-olds showed no ill-signs whatsoever.
But I did have another clue: age. I didn’t exactly have a statistically significant sample size, but it was clear that the only ones affected were the three-year-old trees. But only half of them badly — and why those three in particular? And why was the Chico completely unaffected? From this came another clue, in that the severity of symptoms seemed to follow the order they were arranged, as in the first photo above: Ta-Jan worst, Chico least affected.
Could it be location then? The three-year-olds were, after all, all together in a narrow, closed-in area along a brick wall, with the sickest-looking Ta-Jan closest and most exposed to the entrance, the Chico furthest away and least exposed, and the others in-between and in order of severity of symptoms. The one-year-olds were also together but much further away, and in fact in a completely different area that was more open and exposed.
Still another clue to ponder was that the younger trees were not as leafy as the older ones, and were barely out of bud.
And then it hit me — just three days prior we had had 100.1km/h WNW gales! As the forecast had been for ‘only’ 50km/h winds I hadn’t prepared ahead of time with additional watering to get them through.
These poor trees were suffering transplant shock, and those strong winds were enough to tip them even these tough trees a little over the edge. They had just lost two years’ worth of rhizosphere and microbiome and had had to adjust suddenly to this quite dramatic change, just as photosynthesis and growth coming back online. The strong, drying winds simply added to this stress. The younger trees, on the other hand, were less developed, less established, and could cope better with those conditions.
For a photo journal, this post has become rather wordy! Time for a bunch of photos to enter.
As mentioned earlier, the Ta-Jan, Si-Hong and Sherwood by far showed the worst signs of stress, and of the six would have taken the brunt of the winds roaring down that closed-in area. But the Ta-Jan being the first in line wasn’t the sole reason it suffered the most. It is also the only one with two trunks:
And gently scraping the bark along those trunks revealed these sap colours (my apologies for the blurriness of the tree and the lowest sap-colour insert):
The lowest insert on the short trunk shows a vivid green colour, while progressive scrapings up the tallest trunk shows a more dull green. The vigorous leafy growth hid the fact that sap flow has not yet fully returned to this particular tree. Scrapings of the other five trees revealed the vivid green sap was right to the very tip of each of those trunks, despite most of them being much taller. It’s likely that sap flow in the Ta-Jan is slower to return to full strength on account of two trunks needing to be supplied.
Once it was clear that it was ‘only’ transplant shock and a good dose of heavy winds behind ‘the affliction’, there was nothing to do but keep the water to them as normal, and otherwise let them recover on their own.
Yes, some species would probably never recover from such an experience, but these are jujube trees and tough as nails, and there is very much a happy ending!
All the photos below were taken today, the 13th October 2020.
This is the tip of the tall Ta-Jan trunk, before the dead leaves were removed:
and the same tip after removal of those leaves, and it looks better already!
Here is the tip of the short Ta-Jan trunk after removal of dead leaves:
And new growth everywhere:
The Li never looked any worse than this on the outside — though the leaves are still small and I suspect it is still recuperating on the inside. These leaves were present at the time of the winds:
Likewise for the Lang:
And the little Chico, completely unscathed, has put on a whole bunch of flower buds in the meantime:
On the subject of flower buds, all six were developing these around the time of the winds — there are two in the Lang photo above though they may not be visible. Unfortunately the Ta-Jan lost its with the dead leaves, but the others still have green buds, and importantly, are on still-green stems and surrounded by half-green leaves. (I say ‘half-green’ because many of the leaves stayed a healthy green colour in the half closest/attached to a stem, while the other half shrivelled and died.)
What are the take-home messages from all of this? Unless it’s for science, stick to repotting deciduous plants while they’re still dormant! And regardless of species, and whether deciduous or evergreen, it’s also a good idea to keep as much of the rootball covered in soil or soil-equivalent as possible, especially for older, more-established trees. And if you must repot as they are greening up, be very mindful of weather extremes at all times!
Last week we covered the location of jujube tree nodes and the two types of buds present at each node. (That post has since been updated to include a crash-course description of the branch types as well.) The post ended with a summary of what each bud type could develop into, and the promise of an attempt to predict what each active bud on the 2020 Ta-Jan blogging tree was likely to develop into.
Let’s delve in!
Here is the same photo from last week, with six nodes and the terminal buds labelled:
(There is another node below node 1 — node 0 we can call it — where the trunk meets the white tape, but I’m ignoring it here, as it won’t feature in this ongoing discussion of tree development.)
But before looking at each node, let’s first step back and examine the trunk as a whole, as this will help with our bud investigation. If you’re new to all of this, please just take my word for it for now — but when you know what you’re looking at, it’s clear that this trunk is a permanent branch extending from a fruiting mother branch. Only two types of branch arise from a fruiting mother branch: fruiting branchlets (predominately), and permanent branches (occasionally). Fruiting branchlets are thin and deciduous; permanent branches are thick and, well, permanent! And this one is very much permanent.
(The fruiting mother branch in the photo is mostly obscured by the white tape. It is not intuitively or obviously a ‘branch’, as it looks nothing like one! We’ll cover this branch type in more detail in a future post, or you can read up on it and the other types now here and here.)
A very strong main bud in that fruiting mother branch had broken dormancy last season to produce that permanent branch, which has now become the main trunk of this new little tree.
The photo above of the trunk was taken on the 24th September, 2020. The photos below are of close-ups at each of those nodes, twelve days later on the 6th October (yesterday).
The solitary secondary bud possibly grew a fruiting branchlet in its first (and only) year while the adjacent main bud developed a fruiting mother branch during that time. The fuzzy cluster above is of emerging fruiting branchlets from secondary buds within that mother branch. The main bud in this case is a weak main lateral bud and the secondary bud was possibly a weak secondary bud.
The main bud is dormant while the secondary bud looks to be developing a fruiting branchlet or possibly a secondary branch (I think a fruiting branchlet is more likely, but we’ll see soon enough!). The main bud in this case is a strong main lateral bud and the secondary bud is likely to be a weak secondary bud.
This one is a young fruiting mother branch with one fruiting branchlet already emerging, and visible is a secondary bud within the mother branch forming another branchlet. Alongside is the remains of a removed secondary branch, which had developed from a secondary bud. The main bud in this case is a weak main lateral bud and the old secondary bud would have been a strong secondary bud.
Node 4 is similar to node 3, with a removed secondary branch and a young fruiting mother branch growing fruiting branchlets.
Node 5 is similar to nodes 3 and 4, with a removed secondary branch and young fruiting mother branch growing fruiting branchlets.
Node 6 shows a dormant main bud and an active secondary bud that looks like a fruiting branchlet is on the way. (Again I feel this more likely than a secondary branch, but time will tell!)
This section here is showing all the signs of preparing to send out an extension branch with attached fruiting branchlets. Making this a strong main bud with many secondary buds. I’ll write more about this when it happens, and will leave this as the subject of a future post!
A ‘bud’, in botany, is a compact, undeveloped shoot which may develop into a twig/branch, leaf, or flower. The region in which buds are located is called a node, and the area between nodes is called an internode. Nodes are the points of attachment for branches, leaves and flowers. (Buds not arising from nodes, ie arising from unusual places, are called adventitious buds.)
The nodes in some species are very distinct — bamboo nodes, for example, are the thickened rings between the stem segments. The nodes in other species can be harder to find if leaves or branches aren’t present.
Jujube nodes on dormant trees are visible as single, slightly raised bumps which alternate (change sides) along a trunk and branches. This alternating pattern is behind the distinctive zigzag growth of secondary branches, where the direction of growth changes at each node. This can be seen in the photo below of a Redlands secondary branch:
Nodes on leafy jujube trees are of course very easy to spot with all the green growth sprouting from them! But even these trees may still have less visible nodes barely noticeable as bumps, especially on older wood. On really old wood the nodes tend to blend into the thickening branches until they are hardly visible at all:
Jujube trees are unique, in that each node contains two distinct bud types: a main bud, and a secondary bud. Let’s look further!
Jujube Tree Buds
The main and secondary buds are easier to see when dormant, but the Ta-Jan blogging tree was too fast for me by the time I thought of this post! Every single one of its nodes had an active bud, so I had to make do with older tree substitutes. These have more established branches and are more likely to have at least some nodes with slower-to-wake buds. Below is a Shanxi-Li node on a secondary branch from last year’s growth:
But not only do these trees have two types of bud, each bud may be of strong or weak vigour, and whichever one they are determines what they develop into.
Main Buds on Permanent Branches
Permanent branches are the ones that extend each year and which make up the shape of the tree.
Strong main buds on the ends of permanent branches (ie strong terminal main buds) produce the extension growth that make up the shape of the tree. Weak main buds on the ends of permanent branches (ie weak terminal main buds) produce fruiting mother branches (which look more and more like pine cones the older they become). Strong main buds along permanent branches (ie lateral main buds) are dormant, but the top-most one will break dormancy to produce a new permanent branch when the terminal strong main bud loses vigour. Weak main buds along permanent branches (ie lateral main buds) produce fruiting mother branches.
Main Buds on Secondary Branches
Secondary banches develop from permanent branches and have a distinctive zigzag shape.
Main buds along secondary branches are dormant in the first year but produce fruiting mother branches from their second year on.
Main Buds on Fruiting Mother Branches
Fruiting mother branches are comprised of highly compressed bundles of shoots. These shoots do not have leaves, but contain many main and secondary buds. As a fruiting branch grows a little each year, this cluster of shoots also grows in size, and with each passing year resembles more and more a pine cone.
Fruiting mother branches are not to be confused with fruiting branchlets, the only branch type which produces fruit.
Very strong main buds on fruiting mother branches can break dormancy to produce a new permanent branch. Strong main buds extend the fruiting mother branch by a millimetre or so each year.
Secondary Buds on Permanent Branches
Strong secondary buds on permanent branches produce secondary branches (the ones with the distinct zigzag shape). Weak secondary buds on permanent branches produce fruiting branchlets (not to be confused with fruiting mother branches — the branchlets are the ones on which fruit grows).
Secondary Buds on Secondary Branches
All secondary buds on secondary branches produce fruiting branchlets (not to be confused with fruiting mother branches) the first year. The main buds then take over this role from the second year on.
Secondary Buds on Fruiting Mother Branches
All secondary buds on fruiting mother branches produce fruiting branchlets.
The photo below shows the four branch types and indicates the location of the bud type each developed from. This is an incredibly complicated structure to grasp the first time, so by all means ask any questions in the comments if you need anything clarified.
Back on the 24th September 2020 I finally potted up the Ta-Jan blogging tree for 2020 which had been soil-less since July — it was still going strong but it had been long enough! — and that alone will be the subject of a future post.
But next week we’ll go back to the first photo of this post and zoom in on each of the nodes on that tree trunk to see which buds are growing, and attempt to predict which branch types will develop!
UPDATE: This post didn’t make it clear at the time that these trees were handled contrary to norms in the interests of science. (Basically, I wanted photos of two years’ of root growth whilst demonstrating how tough these trees are with follow-up posts!) Deciduous trees are best replanted whilst dormant, and it is never a good idea to completely remove soil or potting medium from any species prior to planting or repotting elsewhere, and especially with older, established trees.
Even though I was fully aware of what I was doing, risks are always there, as this follow-up post shows!
Back here in 2019 I posted the following photo of a young Li from the previous year, dated 19th October 2018:
The photo below is not of this exact Li, and in fact dates to 23rd August, 2019, ten months later:
Unfortunately I don’t have a photo of the 2018 Li bare-rooted (if only I knew I’d be writing this two years later…!), and nor do I have a photo of the 2019 Li growing (it had gone to a new home). But both were of similar age and size at the time of each photo, and the trunk lengths and size of the roots of each were quite comparable. Thus I have no qualms in regarding the 2019 tree as representative of the 2018 one back in 2018.
This September 2020 I went to repot this very 2018 tree in an Air-Pot container, and took the opportunity to photograph the roots whilst at it, to see how it had developed under the ground over the past two years. (The ruler is a fold-out one where each segment is 20 cm — total length shown here is 160 cm, of which about 35 cm is the roots’ depth):
Here is a close-up of the roots (the developing sucker at top right of the root system was removed prior to potting):
A lovely mass of more fibrous roots is quite evident! The tree probably could have stayed in the original pot another year, but I’ll get even more years’ use out of a same-sized Air-Pot®, where the tree can continue to develop an even more fibrous root system for maximum nutrient uptake.
Each tree is different. Here is the Li’s, um, graft-mate (?!), a Ta-Jan which had been potted and treated the same in every way — but half the size and with, what, four times? the root mass. Total length is about 85 cm with a root depth of about 30 cm:
Close-up of the roots:
Here’s another graft-mate, the same Lang as in the above-mentioned 2019 post. Total length about 150 cm with a root depth of about 30 cm:
And last but never least, a Chico which really went to town packing roots down below while not doing too much on top (I expect extension growth this year though). Total length about 120 cm and a root depth of about 80 cm:
And a close-up:
When washing the roots for the photo I noticed something where the red circle is:
It’s impossible to make out, so let’s zoom in closer:
Below is the same photo of the young Ta-Jan mentioned back on 1st September 2020 in this post.
The photo below was taken today, 15th September. This tree has not seen soil since July, as part of a little experiment to a) show how tough these trees are, and b) show how much energy is contained in the roots and trunk to sustain any particular one through and post-dormancy. It has been, and still is, kept cool and moist in wood shavings, but without having seen soil, or much sunlight, all this time.
This tree is approximately 560 mm long from trunk tip to root tip in a vertical line, ignoring the bends in the roots. Approximately 360 mm is trunk (including the graft), and the root section, if straightened, would measure approximately 300 mm.
Can you see the new leaves growing about 30 mm from the top, on the left? These are about 8 mm long and were barely an open bud back on September 1st.
Let’s zoom in on that trunk now. (Note that the first photos date from the 6th, not 1st September.)
Can you see that the very tip is heavily reddish-brown, and that the buds and nodes are also noticeably reddish-brown against the more grey wood? And that the grey wood itself has (faint) reddish-brown streaks along it?
The other side of the trunk happens to be mostly reddish-brown with grey streaks, and with a very green tip:
These are the colours jujube wood cycles through as it ages: green for the newest growth, reddish-brown for the next, and grey for the oldest.
The two pictures below, taken last summer 2019 along a Li trunk, show this well:
The newest growth is a vivid green, transitioning to a reddish-brown as it ages during a season, transitioning again to grey as it ages more. It is very easy to age jujube wood by its colour (and texture, from very smooth green to ever roughening grey with each passing year). Last year’s wood is grey and rough, while a current year’s growth always begins a vivid green that has turned reddish-brown by the following autumn. Only the very newest growth remains green by summer’s end.
As a jujube tree enters dormancy, all its wood, regardless of colour and age, dulls to the same grey tones. This colour change may subconsciously register to make these trees look even more lifeless than they are throughout winter. But these colours return in a gentle flush come spring, as shown by the Ta-Jan above. It too was completely grey over winter, but has now picked up where it left off last season. In time that green tip will become reddish-brown over this season, and the reddish-brown will transition to grey during this season.
Nothing says ’spring’ to me more than seeing the first red flushes around the buds and nodes, and watching them gradually extend along the trunk and branches!
This earlier post described the four branch types peculiar to jujube trees: primary (extension) branches, secondary (non-extension) branches, fruiting mother branches, and fruiting branchlets. Also mentioned were the two bud types, main and secondary, and that each could have either strong or weak vigour. The type and strength of a particular bud determined the branch type that developed.
The focus in that post was on terminal main buds (those at the end of a branch), and how the strong ones produce permanent extension branches that form the structure of the tree, while the weak terminal buds produce fruiting mother branches.
This week picks up where we left off, with the primary branches, but this time we’ll cover the non-terminal buds. That is, the buds along a branch rather than at its end, and what these develop into. And from there we’ll go on to discuss how the other branches form.
Normally the main buds along a permanent branch remain dormant while that branch’s terminal main bud remains strong and produces extension growth. When that terminal bud weakens however, and produces a fruiting mother branch, some of the main buds further down the branch will break dormancy and produce new growth.
A strong main bud along a permanent branch will produce a new permanent branch that adds to the overall shape of the tree:
A weak main bud along a permanent branch may also break dormancy and produce a fruiting mother branch:
Remember how a fruiting mother branch — which looks more like a pine cone than a branch! — is a bunch of very compressed shoots containing several main and secondary buds? If a main bud in a fruiting mother branch then comes out of dormancy, a new permanent (structural) branch will again form:
A strong secondary bud along a permanent branch will produce a secondary branch. This branch type has a distinctive zigzag growth, caused by the alternating nodes changing the direction of growth:
Secondary branches do all their growing in their first year, as the terminal bud responsible for growth dies by the end of the first year. While a secondary branch will survive for many years, its end will deteriorate back to a node over time, where it dies:
During the first year’s growth of a secondary branch, its secondary buds at each node will produce fruiting branchlets, while its main buds remain dormant. These main buds then break dormancy in the second year to produce fruiting mother branches.
Here is a current season’s secondary branch showing fruiting branchlets from secondary buds. We know this branch to be less than a year old by its colour and texture — predominantly reddening but with hints of green still present, and with the shiny, smooth look of ‘green’ wood.
Below are fruiting branchlets from newly forming fruiting mother branches on a secondary branch in its second year of life. Again the colour and texture age the wood as between one and two years old, in that it is slowly developing a more brown-grey colour and has a more textured surface. Unlike the photo above, where the fruiting branchlets come from buds almost flush with the secondary branch, these branchlets come from slight extensions which are the growing fruiting mother branches. These mother branches will extend a little further and look more like pine cones with each passing year.
And here are fruiting branchlets from fruiting mother branches on an older secondary branch, which is noticeably more grey than the younger branches above. Mother branches only grow a millimetre or so each year.
As mentioned earlier, fruiting mother branches will develop from weak main buds on permanent branches. However, most branches of this type will come from the main buds on secondary branches. As the fruiting mother branches are the ones to produce fruiting branchlets, this means most fruit will come ultimately from secondary branches — branches which do not grow after the first season. Something to bear in mind when pruning, a topic we’ll cover in due course!
Also mentioned earlier was that a fruiting mother branch is a group of very compressed shoots comprised of main and secondary buds. The terminal bud extends the growth of the branch slightly each year, for about ten years after which it is no longer productive.
Fruiting mother branches can produce up to ten fruiting branchlets in a whorl:
The fruiting branchlets themselves come from weak secondary buds in the mother branch. (As well as from weak secondary buds on secondary branches as mentioned earlier.) Please read this if interested in further detail on the anatomy of a fruiting branchlet.
A peculiarity of jujube trees is that the fruiting branchlets are deciduous and have mostly fallen off the mother branches by the following winter. Some occasionally remain on the tree but they will never regrow:
and come away easily if knocked.
And that concludes the discussion on jujube tree branch development!
Going further, this post breaks down the structure of a fruiting branchlet in more detail, while this post describes the anatomy of a flower in more detail. And this post documents a flower’s life from bud to fully open and ready for passing pollinators.
All we need (I think!) to conclude the whole branch-flower-fruit thing is the documentation of a flower developing a fruit — and that is definitely coming!
Around 7pm the other evening I was perusing my trees, and — as I often do, gently pulled down a fruiting branchlet above to look more closely with my loupe at the flowers and developing fruits along it. To my absolute horror it came away in my hand! I reconciled myself by thinking that maybe it was structurally weak and always destined to fall off, and decided to make good of the situation by writing about it!
So here it is, the anatomy of a Shanxi-Li fruiting branchlet!
This was a large branchlet, about 385 mm along a straight line, but closer to 405 mm long, as measured by following every bend of the stem with a piece of string and then measuring the string. It was so noticeably large (most in my experience tend to be under 300 mm long) that I really do wonder if it was structurally weak and would have snapped off eventually as the developing fruit on it grew larger and heavier?
As with all new jujube branch growth during a season, the oldest part of this branchlet (which was closest to the fruiting mother branch) was turning red while the youngest part of the shoot was still the bright green of new growth.
The proximal end (of anything) is that closest to the point of origin or attachment. Here, the point of attachment of this fruiting branchlet was the fruiting mother branch. Conversely, the distal end (of anything) is that furthest away from the point of origin or attachment:
Here is where the point of attachment was:
And here is the proximal end of the branchlet, with a transverse (crosswise, cross-sectional) view of the point of detachment:
A node is the point along a branch from which leaves and other branches grow. An internode is the interval between two nodes.
The closest node (and leaf) to the fruiting mother branch was 15 mm away. The largest internode, and the third along from the fruiting mother branch, was 40 mm long. The internodes were then spaced at 30 mm intervals, then 25 mm intervals, and finally the last internode was just 3 mm long, but with still developing leaves, and would have lengthened by season’s end. The penultimate internode was 10 mm long.
The leaves are alternate, meaning there is a single leaf at each node. The leaves alternate sides along the branch, because the nodes alternate sides, hence the name. (The two other leaf arrangements defined in botany are opposite and whorled.)The largest leaf on this branchlet was 90 mm long and 55 mm across the widest part. The smallest leaf was 35 mm long and 15 mm across its widest part. The very small, still developing leaves at the distal end were just 5 mm long.
The flower arrangement (inflorescence) at each node is a simple cyme. A cyme is a group of flowers in which the oldest flower occupies the end of the peduncle (the main supporting stalk, or main axis), and newer shoots come from the sides of that stalk.
As the flowers differ in age within a cyme, so too do the fruits which develop from those flowers:
And as flowers (and fruits) differ in age within a cyme, so too do they differ in age along a branchlet. Those at the fruiting mother branch (proximal) end are oldest and those at the (distal) tip are youngest. Here, these cymes which were closest to the fruiting mother branch have no flowers anymore, but do have the largest fruits. Note too the change in colour of the branchlet when moving from the proximal end towards the distal end:
The cymes at the very tip of the branchlet have the youngest flowers of all — minute buds which have only just begun development:
The cymes between these extremes occupy a gradient of mostly fruit and some flowers, to some fruit and mostly flowers, to mostly flowers and some buds, to mostly buds and some flowers. Note too the colour change along the branchlet. You can tell that the banchlet segment in the top photo below is closer to the fruiting mother branch than the segment in the lower photo below, as it is more red at the proximal end:
Fruiting branchlets are the only branches on a jujube tree to produce flowers and fruits — so writing about one allowed me to slip more botany in than I otherwise could have with another branch type!
To go further and discuss the flowers and fruits on a fruiting branchlet really require their own posts to do those topics justice. I covered Photo Journal: Anatomy of a Jujube Flower earlier, and fully intend to do one on fruit later, but here is a good place to wrap up this post with, I guess, a teaser for what will come!
The following photos are of the largest fruit on the branchlet discussed here. This fruit was the most proximal and 8 mm long.
Do revisit the flower anatomy post — this page may help too — and see if you can work out what the two little brown dots on this fruit’s distal end are. (Distal in this context refers to the end of the fruit furthest away from its point of attachment, and not to be confused with the distal end of the branchlet discussed above.)
What about now?
Yes, those are the two stigmata and the branched style of the original flower! The green fruit you see is the maturing ovary of that flower. But more on that to come later!
The proximal end of the same fruit reveals the sepal remnants:
Let’s (almost) bisect it. I say ‘almost’, as a real bisection would have had two equal halves, each with that delicate little peduncle cleaved cleanly in two along its length. Sorry but that was never going to happen!
Just looking at this you may well be able to make out which parts will become the seeds, the stone that contains the seeds, and the fruit itself? This, and what happens as the fruit grows, is definitely the topic of a future post!
Anthesis is the period or action of a flower opening, and this post will document two Ta-Jan flowers doing exactly that.
Firstly, a refresher on the parts of a jujube flower to make this easier to follow along:
Stamens and anthers are mentioned a few times in this post as, unlike the style and stigmata, they are somewhat mobile during anthesis. The stamen, the complete male organ of a flower, is not marked as such on the above photo, but is simply a word that refers to the anther and filament together. Pollen (the sperm equivalent) is produced by the anther. The filament is a stalk that attaches the anther to the flower.
Did you know jujube flowers are of one of two types? Some cultivars are morning blooming, and some are afternoon blooming. Morning blooming flowers begin anthesis in the morning, with peak nectar production that afternoon, while afternoon blooming flowers begin anthesis in the afternoon with peak nectar production the following morning.
I chose Ta-Jan flowers to photograph, as these are morning blooming. These also have a vivid yellow nectary disc! (The discs in some cultivars are less bright.)
The photos below are of the same two flowers — the top views (left) are of the same flower each time (Flower 1), and the side views (right) are of a second, same flower each time (Flower 2). The white twist ties visible were there to help me identify the same flower on the same fruiting branchlet each time — it can be hard to keep track when there are branchlets and flowers everywhere, and even more disorientating with buds turning into flowers and flowers changing form all around and all at the same time!
A flower’s bloom time is just 24 hours, but this isn’t too noticeable to a casual observer, as the flowers are both small and numerous — along any one fruiting branchlet will be many flowers representing all stages of anthesis, and a single flower tends to get drowned out in the noise! If you revisit the Photo Journal: Different Flower Stages post after reading this post, you may well see the photos on that page with new eyes, and will definitely see your own flowers in a new light!
Anthesis of a jujube flower could be broken down into several stages:
flower bud changes from green to yellowish
sepals flatten, petals and stamens (anthers + filaments) upright
petals and stamens separate
petals flatten and stamens upright
nectary disc lightens
1. Flower Bud Changes Colour Notes: The 25th November photo for Flower 1 is more yellow in tone overall compared to the 24th November one (this is especially noticeable in the stem the twist tie is on). This is probably the camera adjusting white balance based on the more yellow bud at centre that it was focusing on. However, it’s still apparent that the bud has changed colour when compared to the smaller still developing bud to its right. (My excuse is that I’m not expert enough to adjust for white balance in the field, and it would take too long to do that in software!)
The two photos for Flower 2 are more uniform in tone, and the change in colour of the bud is more apparent. The darker background of the second image may suggest this was taken at night, but this is just an artifact of partial shadow at that time of day popping the flash. (I have everything set to auto as I trust the camera to take better photos than me — one day that will change!)
2. Sepals Separate Notes: The more yellow hue of Flower 1’s sepals is more evident here, when compared to the buds to its right.
And here’s Flower 1 a little later, at 9:59am:
3. Sepals Flatten, Petals and Stamens (Anthers + Filaments) Upright Notes: The glistening you can see on the nectary disc of Flower 1 is nectar production. You may just be able to see the bright yellow disc on Flower 2 too.
If you look really closely, and compare this photo immediately below to the very first photo at top of page (’Jujube flower anatomy’), you’ll note that the petals and stamens here appear combined. The stamens’ filaments are actually tucked into the ‘handle’ part of the little green spoon-like petals — and once you know that you might be able to make out the anthers as the whitish, pointed tips that extend from the ’spoon bowl’ part of the petals further back. The next photo will make this clearer.
4. Petals and Stamens Separate 5. Petals Flatten and Stamens Upright Notes: Here the petals are now in the same plane as the sepals while the stamens remain upright, the whitish anthers shining like little beacons atop the green filaments. The nectar produced by the nectary discs of both flowers is already attracting ants.
6. Stamens Flatten Notes: I missed when this actually happened for Flower 2, but the photo of it the morning after still makes the point!
7. Nectary Disc Lightens Notes: The nectary disc lightens as anthesis progresses, to become the same colour as the sepals:
To wrap up, here’s a photo of Flower 1 and some neighbours, just to illustrate how as some flowers advance through anthesis, others are at their end of life (perhaps having never been pollinated), others are just beginning, and attracting pollinators, and others still are yet to move from the bud stage:
And this is along just two centimetres of one fruiting branchlet!
For a bit of relaxing quiet time, why not grab a magnifying glass (or loupe if you have one) and peruse your own flowers? You may even enjoy watching pollinators moving about — hopefully pollinating as they go! Speaking of pollination, ongoing flower evolvement post-pollination into fruit development is another post I will be covering in due course!
Back here were lots of pretty pictures of jujube flowers, but not exactly much in the way of information as to what you were looking at.
As with that week, this week is another time-poor one I’m afraid. But while this post will also be photo-heavy, it won’t be as light on the words, and you may even be tempted to wander outside to examine your own flowers (jujubes or otherwise!) by the end of it!
Let’s first look at a stylised diagram of the parts of a flower. The flower in that illustration is a perfect flower — to botanists, that means it’s a bisexual or hermaphroditic flower, with both male and female organs, and able to reproduce on its own. More specifically, a perfect flower is one that:
makes and distributes male gametes (male sex cells, or pollen, the equivalent of sperm in animals)
makes female gametes (female sex cells, or ovules, the equivalent of unfertilised eggs in animals)
receives male gametes (pollen) able to fertilise the female gametes (ovules)
The third point is crucial as it is this capability that makes a perfect flower able to fertilise itself (though often with the help of pollinators such as insects or birds). Making male and female gametes is one thing, but if an ovule can’t then receive the pollen from its own flower, then that flower cannot fertilise itself.
I’m mentioning all this of course, because jujube flowers themselves are perfect flowers. Here’s a close-up of one. With reference to the stylised diagram, can you pick out the sepals, petals, anthers, filaments, bifurcated (branched) style and stigmas/stigmata (plural forms for stigma) in the jujube rootstock flower below?
(What you may think is the ovary is actually a nectary disc, which is above the (covered) ovary. See how it glistens with nectar?)
Here’s a different angle, of a Chico flower (this one’s nectary disc has finished secreting nectar):
How’d you go?
Probably the trickiest part is distinguishing those ever so tiny, delicate spoon-like petals from the petal-like sepals! You have to really look hard to notice them. And you have to look harder again to even notice the tiny anthers and filaments, which practically merge into the background and look like part of the petals at a casual glance.
It’s the sepals we see folded into the distinctive pentagonal shape of the flower buds:
And there you have it, the anatomy of a jujube flower — you’ll never mistake sepals for petals again, will you?!
And so as not to leave you hanging, here is a spent flower with the nectary disc and now visible ovary:
This week I thought I’d follow up on the last paragraph of this older post that had been getting some recent attention, as well as my comment under that post.
Fig. 1 below is the very same Lang referred to. This photo was taken on 19th October 2018, about two months after being potted into a 30 cm pot in August 2018:
Fig. 2 is the very same Li also mentioned, again two months after potting in August 2018, and photographed on 19th October 2018:
Both trees are of similar age, and you can see why I described the Li as ‘runty’ in that comment! It looks rather lost in that pot…
Fig. 3 below was taken a bit over a year later, on 7th November 2019. These are the same two trees in Figs. 1 and 2, side-by-side. The Lang (Fig. 3, left) and Li (Fig. 3, right) are in the same 30 cm pots of August 2018, and had been watered and fertilised similarly the whole time. They had otherwise not been disturbed (though I will pot them up next winter 2020).
The Lang at time of photo was about 110 cm high from base of trunk to tip of leader (longer if accounting for the angled growth), as marked. The Li was about 75 cm as marked (and longer again if accounting for the very angular growth!).
And Fig. 4 is the same photo, but showing how each tree had grown (or hadn’t!) by mid-spring 2018 and mid-spring this year 2019:
The Li is growing exactly as the Ta-Jan and Adrian’s Chico did. That is, it wasn’t, and then it was, with gusto!
But why was the growth of the Li (and Chico) so different to that of the Lang? To find out, we will need to zoom in closer on various branches and examine them —and if you’re not familiar with how these trees grow you are about to learn quite a bit!
But first a brush-up on some terminology to make this easier. Common to plant stems, irrespective of species, are nodes, the points from which leaves and branches grow. Some nodes are really distinct, such as the thickened rings between the segments of bamboo stem. (The botanical term for a segment of stem between nodes, regardless of species, is internode.) As leaves and branches grow from buds, buds are thus found in the nodes, whether or not they actually go on to grow a leaf or a branch.
Jujube nodes are unusual in that they contain two bud types: a main bud, and a secondary bud (Fig. 5):
And to mess with your head still more, whether such buds have strong or weak vigour determines the type of branch that will develop from them.
Pretty much every tree you’re familiar with has main branches and sub-branches that resemble each other despite age and location on the tree. But jujube trees really complicate things by having four different branch types: primary (extension) branches, secondary (non-extension) branches, fruiting mother branches, and fruiting branchlets!
The permanent primary extension branches are the ones that determine the shape and size of the tree. These branches are formed by terminal (end), strong, main buds which shoot each year and for many years to extend the tree’s overall structure and shape.
You can differentiate each yearly shoot extension along a branch — and thus age the wood — by its colour. Wood that grew two or more seasons ago is a drab grey-brown colour that becomes less brown and more grey with age. This wood also develops more furrows the older it gets (Fig. 6). (Thank you to Adrian for permission to use this photo!)
Last season’s wood is a smooth reddish brown. The transition between this and the prior year’s growth is very clear in Fig. 7 below. This wood will eventually become grey and develop furrows as it ages.
Current season’s growth is a bright green (Fig. 8).
The green will gradually change to the red colour of year-old wood by season’s end the following autumn. Fig. 9 shows this year’s growth on the Li of Fig. 3 above beginning to change colour at time of writing in late spring, 12th November 2019.
Some years later the terminal bud will weaken, the extension growth will halt, and a terminal fruiting mother branch forms instead of an extended branch.
Thus to summarise what we’ve covered so far: permanent branches are formed from strong terminal main buds, and fruiting mother branches form from weak terminal main buds.
Fruiting mother branches (not to be confused with fruiting branchlets, which we’ll get to!) aren’t only produced by terminal weak buds — they also develop from other bud and branch types which I’ll also get to — but let’s stick with the terminal buds for now as this is already getting complicated!
A fruiting mother branch resembles a pine cone. Like these two on the Ta-Jan in the earlier post that birthed this post (Fig. 10):
And these two on the same Li in Fig 3 above (Fig. 11):
And these two on Adrian’s Chico (Fig.12, and thank you again for permission to use this photo):
It is not at all obvious that these are branches, is it? Yet they are in fact very compressed shoots with several main and secondary buds on them. The (once strong, now weak) terminal bud of a fruiting mother branch grows ever so slightly each year, producing another cluster of buds that can produce up to ten fruiting branchlets in a whorl. The fruiting motherbranch is so named as it is the ‘mother’ of the fruiting branchlets, which are the dedicated branches for the flowers and fruits. The branchlets can vary from 100-300 mm in length (most fall within 120-250 mm in my experience), have alternating leaves on nodes 20-25 mm apart, and typically produce 3 or more fruits. These branchlets resemble compound leaves, but the presence of flowers and fruits show them for what they really are.
Fruiting branchlets are deciduous, and fall off by the following winter. On a small and young tree with little to no trunk/branch development, it is understandable to think your tree has died when you see every one of these little branchlets turn from vivid and healthy flexible green branches, to dried up, dead piles of brown twigs on the ground. Some branchlets do occasionally remain on the tree, but never grow again and come away easily if knocked or removed by hand.
Let’s revist the Ta-Jan. Below in Fig. 13 are the first and last photos of it in this post, side-by-side. Note how the main buds remained dormant while the secondary buds produced fruiting branchlets that growing season of 2017.
Yet the following year (2018) one of those main buds broke dormancy to produce this shoot, photographed on 10th November, 2019 (Fig. 14). You can tell from the red colour of the uppermost trunk that this shoot developed last season, in 2018. The secondary buds in the lower fruiting mother branches continue to grow fruiting branchlets — which are the same vivid green as all other growth of a current season.
If you go back to Figs. 11 and 12, you’ll see this exact same growth on the Li and Chico. That is, mother branches with secondary buds producing fruiting branchlets, but also where a main bud broke dormancy to produce a permanent primary branch.
But why did the Ta-Jan, Li and Chico all grow this way, while the Lang in Fig. 1 produced a permanent shoot structure from the outset? Here’s a close-up of the trunk of that Lang of Fig. 4 above, on 7th November, 2019 (Fig. 15):
You’ll see a fruiting mother branch at the junction where growth began in 2018. Unlike the Ta-Jan, Li and Chico, this branch simply had a main bud break dormancy in the 2018 season rather than this season 2019, hence the rapid growth readily apparent in Fig. 4. And while the Li in Fig. 4 put on its growth-spurt this year, the Lang has slowed in its extension growth, also shown in Fig. 4. It has instead developed more secondary branch structures.
There is already plenty here to digest, so I will describe these secondary branch structures and other peculiarities of jujube trees in a future post — and there is plenty more to describe when it comes to jujube branch development!
But to wrap up everything covered here:
Jujube nodes contain two types of bud: a main bud and a secondary bud
A bud may have strong or weak vigour, and this determines the type of branch that develops
There are four branch types: primary (extension), secondary (non-extension), fruiting mother branches, and fruiting branchlets
Terminal, strong, main buds produce the permanent primary branches, which ultimately determine the size and shape of the tree
Jujube wood is green in its first season of growth (less than one-year-old wood), is red during its second season (one-year-old wood), and subsequently browner then more grey and furrowed with each passing year
Permanent branch extensions cease when the terminal bud weakens; a fruiting mother branch develops instead
The (now weak, main) terminal bud of a fruiting mother branch will extend that branch’s growth slightly each year
Fruiting mother branches contain (usually) dormant main buds and active secondary buds that produce fruiting branchlets
A dormant main bud can break dormancy in a fruiting mother branch to form a new primary, extension branch
Rather than a post last week, we had threee guest comments under this older post — direct links are here, here and here — and a big thank you to Adrian and Airlie for sharing their experiences! I stupidly didn’t actually post those links publicly at the time, and only subscribers were notified unfortunately. This post hopefully rectifies that mistake.
The past few days have been…quite full (!) of late with my advanced heirloom tomato plants, and now I find myself a day late in getting the regular post out!
I was intending to follow up on my comment in that older post, but this week because of time thought a quicker post of flower photos might still be of interest. Every fruiting branch, when covered in flowers, has flowers at all stages, from newly-formed bud to open-and-ready-for pollination. This is why jujube trees have an extended cropping period that lasts weeks to months.
This one is my absolute favourite, taken by my sister-in-law some years ago now. It shows an ant pollinating an open flower, with very new budding flowers nearby:
The photo above best gives you an idea of scale too. The new buds would be 2 or 3mm across while the pretty five-pointed stars that are the fully opened flowers vary from about 6 to 7 mm diameter, depending on the cultivar.
The photographs below show a cluster of terminal (tip, end) buds on a several-years-old Ta-Jan back in the spring of 2017. I found this particularly striking to photograph, as it was so different to the more slender stick-like grafts we send out.
I intend to write more about the different buds, and how their positions along a branch determine future tree development, but for now please enjoy this series of photos! The days displayed here match the days listed last week — for no reason other than consistency really.
Viewing Suggestion: Click on any of the photos to view in a pop-up window. You can then scroll through them manually via the left and right arrows that display at bottom left of that window, or click ’start slideshow’ at bottom right for this to happen automatically.
Ta-Jan, Day 1, 14th August, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 4, 17th August, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 7, 20th August, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 10, 23rd August, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 12, 25th August, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 14, 27th August, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 18, 31st August, 2017 This photo isn’t the best, but can you see a hint of green developing at the top?
Ta-Jan, Day 20, 2nd September, 2017 That hint of green has increased noticeably in two days!
Ta-Jan, Day 22, 4th September, 2017 And some more again here. Can you see a hint of green now coming through the bottom left group of buds now?
Ta-Jan, Day 24, 6th September, 2017 That second growth of green is more apparent just two days later, while the shoots at top just keep growing. Both these groups grow rapidly from this point on.
Ta-Jan, Day 27, 9th September, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 32, 14th September, 2017 This photo cracks me up — can you see the two-eyed critter with his arms and antennae extended?!
Ta-Jan, Day 35, 17th September, 2017 Does he look cranky to you?!
Ta-Jan, Day 36, 18th September, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 37, 19th September, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 38, 20th September, 2017
Ta-Jan, Day 39, 21st September, 2017 Just hilarious!
Those branches at top went on to become ‘fruiting branchlets’ — peculiar to jujubes, and the deciduous branches on which the flowers and fruit grow. They had all fallen off by the following winter. With no permanent branch growth having developed at all, this meant that this particular tree was pretty much as tall at the beginning of the season as it was at the end. I was quite disappointed with it! As I mentioned above, this tree was a few years old, but seemed destined to be a dwarf.
Mind you, the poor thing had been somewhat neglected in a small pot for years, and I finally got around to potting it up in winter of 2018, with plenty of fertiliser and tender loving care. Coincidence or not, but the following year one of those terminal buds shot out during the spring of 2018, to become a permanent extension of the main trunk. The trunk, to the tip of that cluster of buds, was about 40 cm high in spring 2017. The new shoot that grew over spring 2018 alone was 55 cm, and had forked into two branches by season’s end. The little dwarf more than doubled in height!
But sometimes these trees do behave like this, and put on a growth spurt later than their peers. A little Li here has shown exactly the same behaviour, going nowhere last year and growing nothing but fruiting branchlets. Now it too is showing a strong growth spurt a year later. For comparison, a similarly-aged Lang has tripled in height in the same amount of time.
All tree orders for this winter 2019 had been received by Tuesday 20th August, six weeks ago today. While these were being sent out, I deliberately kept a few over in the exact same conditions as those that were being shipped, ie packed in wood shavings in a polystyrene box. Once I knew every last tree had been received, I waited a few more days again to plant these held-over ones out for myself. I like to do this to show skin in the game, as well as to demonstrate how strong and hardy these delicate-looking little trees really are.
Back on Tuesday 13th August I had prepared a homemade experimental potting mix for these trees. Saturday 24th August was Day 1 of planting, and the following photos showcase one of these trees — a young Shanxi-Li — coming out of dormancy.
Please note that we are in Wollongong with mild winters — people further south and/or in colder climates would likely experience a more delayed development than what is shown here for this time of year.
Viewing Suggestion: Click on any of the photos to view in a pop-up window. You can then scroll through them manually via the left and right arrows that display at bottom left of that window, or click ’start slideshow’ at bottom right for this to happen automatically.
Shanxi-Li, Day 1, 24th August, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 4, 27th August, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 7, 30th August, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 10, 2nd September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 12, 4th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 14, 6th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 18, 10th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 20, 12th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 22, 14th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 24, 16th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 27, 19th September, 2019 You can see the (30 cm diameter) pot in this photo, and may be wondering why the tree has been planted right up to the rim? This is because the roots sprawl any which way and length, as in the first photo on this page, and will dictate the tree’s position in a smaller pot. I could have chosen a larger pot, but this size makes handling easier for this photoshoot.
Shanxi-Li, Day 32, 24th September, 2019 Note the root stock just visible at bottom right of the trunk? See how quickly it grows over the next few pictures! You really need to keep on top of this — just pinch them off with your fingers when they’re at this stage.
Shanxi-Li, Day 35, 27th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 36, 28th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 37, 29th September, 2019
Shanxi-Li, Day 38, 30th September, 2019 Now you’ve seen how quickly rootstock can grow, I removed it after this photo!
Shanxi-Li, Day 39, 1st October, 2019
Not obvious in these photos are the side buds developing and ready to leaf, but these will be the subject of a future photo journal, or two!
One final photo to wrap up! The photo below is the same one as for Day 39 above, but with lengths displayed. It’s hidden by the leaves, but the length of that thicker green stem branching off and up to the top left is 75 mm — already catching up to the 125 mm length of the grafted branch it is growing out of!
Update: Here’s a better viewpoint that shows the length of the new branches more clearly: