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Pioneer Trees and the best way of Propagating Birch and Willow?  RSS feed

 
Posts: 23
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Was wondering what is the best way of propagating Willow and Birch? Have some Silver Birch and Willow already.

The Birch tends to send out new suckers from the root stock, although they often get cut off by a tractor with a cutter once a week. Is it easier to grow a lot of birch by cuttings or from pieces of root?

What is the best way of planting willow cuttings in a very hard compact clay soil? Just make a hole with a metal rod and drop them in or try starting them off in pots first. Is there a season when they are much less likely to survive?
 
pollinator
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Forty three years ago my parents took a willow cutting and placed it in a mayonnaise jar filled with water over the winter, by Spring it was so overloaded with roots they had to smash the mayonnaise jar to get it root bound-free. They stuck the thing in a hole (in clay soil) and today after many cuttings that overflowed the driveway it is some 50 feet high and over a foot in diameter.

I can't help you on what works for birch, but that was what worked for willow.

 
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Location: Derbyshire, UK
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Willow is really easy- chop bits off and place in a jar of water and they'll happily grow roots. I cut 20-cm long pieces of finger-thick branch whilst the plant is dormant and push them into the ground in about March- about 80% of them happily root and sprout.

I've never grown birch but the seedlings grow in my lawn easily enough so I don't think it is difficult to grow from seed.
 
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As above, willows strike easily. Birch would probably be successful as well.
I have read that you can strike willows in the summer from the seasons long growth, I was going to try that at some stage soon as I wish to have a decent rabbit / deer proof fence around my orchard, I'll give anything a go.

I know that hawthorn will sucker easily from exposed roots, as will a lot of the prunus family, I wonder if you can do the same with both willow and birch? That might be worth a try if you have existing trees.
 
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Location: Leicester, UK 8b,
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yes willow is no trouble to propagate, cut a stick and shove it in the ground.
Birch is a pioneer plant so I'd guess easiest by seed if you wanted a few.
 
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Location: Lancaster, UK
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seed for Birch trees and cuttings for willow. I'd take the willow cuttings in the winter, and wait till your heavy clay is wet before you plant so that the cutting will take straight away. I wouldn't recommend rooting them in water first as those thick white roots are easy to break off. Let it do the job once
 
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I agree with Linda. I've planted and seen planted hundreds of willow cuttings. We usually cut them in late winter before the buds swell, and either soak them for a few days or plant directly. The most important thing is making sure the soil stays moist every day for the first couple of months, until the roots get established. I've also seen them successfully cut and planted in autumn after the leaves fell. Willows and poplars and oleaster are all very successful from cuttings like this, in my experience.
 
Richard Yorke
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Thank you for the replies. Have quite a lot of hawthorn sprouting up everywhere seeded by the bird probably, very tough to cut when mature (used for butcher's blocks from what I've heard). Have some small oak trees growing as well, no idea how they got there though. Was just a wheat field there for 10 years straight no crop rotation, now grass with some trees planted 7 years a go.
 
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SFGate home gardening site or whatever that is says you can propagate "river birch" (black birch, as far as I can tell) from cuttings.  6".  They suggest all kinds of peat moss and root growth hormone, but if you're looking for an easy way to plant a bunch of trees without animals eating tasty seeds then cuttings seem like the way to go.  It would be great to have more clear info on this!  The n-fixing tree list  for cold climates seems to have some wide variations in opinions, from "all betula are n-fixers" to "only alders and locusts"  and nothing you find naturally growing in the cold climate (what I recall from Dave Jacke's carefully researched list...).  I wonder if it's a matter of giving them a rating on a scale from 1 to 10--mildly nitrogen-fixing to really nitrogen-fixing.  It would be nice to compare all plants this way in a per-square-foot or per-year basis, so as to have apples-to-apples. 
 
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Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:  I wonder if it's a matter of giving them a rating on a scale from 1 to 10--mildly nitrogen-fixing to really nitrogen-fixing.  It would be nice to compare all plants this way in a per-square-foot or per-year basis, so as to have apples-to-apples. 





This would be great if achievable, but the variables are so huge from climatic and soil factors through to the existence or otherwise of strains of N-fixing microbes in every soil that unfortunately it would only be achievable on a very small scale. Example is the strains of Frankia that fix N in association with Alders, the levels of N-fixation even in the same species can vary hugely due to the effectiveness of the microbial association. Another example that annoys me, Mimosa scabrella occurs in South America in climates similar to mine, but they just absolutely refuse to grow here. Germination is easy, and they grow to about 4" tall easily, then basically stop. I have found the same problems with a lot of South American tree legumes. By contrast Australian legumes nodulate in my soils extremely easily, but even then the associated Bradyrhizobia associations in New Zealand vary in their N-fixation effectiveness by over 1000%, according to one study.  I'm sure these issues would be universal to all soils when non-native N-fixers are contemplated.

Personally I would always prefer N-fixing pioneer trees than willows or birches! The only reason I would plant willows is because they get badly infested by Giant Willow Aphid, which are a great feed source and bring in a lot of predatory insects. But oh boy those willows are easy to grow, any bit of stick or branch stuck into the ground anywhere grows readily. Some spread wildly by seeds too, always better to plant sterile (single sex) clones if possible.
 
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