Garden Q&A: Is it okay for trees to kiss? And what are those strings on my honeysuckle?
By Ellen Nibali
Feb 06, 2020 | 7:00 AM
I think of these as my “kissing trees.” But is this healthy?
You’re on to something. You’ve caught these two in the act of inosculation. Botanically, it means that two trees have grown together, or grafted, one to the other. This happens naturally when two branches or trunks touch, rubbing against each other and wearing off the bark.
A callous or infection could occur, and pruning off one of the branches is typically recommended, however, healthy self-grafting happens, too. This ability of trees has been perfected by horticulturalists to create spectacular horticultural sculpture.
Usually inosculation happens between two trees of the same species but, judging from the bark patterns, your trees are two entirely different species. And, indeed, the root word (no pun intended) is ‘to osculate’ which means ‘to kiss.’
Why did my coral honeysuckle flowers have a lot of strings sticking out of them last summer?
Those protruding “strings” are parts of the flower sexual organs. Earlier in the summer, they would have been fuzzy with pollen. The female stigma is where pollen is deposited atop a slender tube (the style) that leads to the ovary where seeds and fruit result. The pollen originates from anthers at the tips of long stamens, the male parts.
There are more male than female to improve the success rate. Both project from within the flower so pollen can be dusted between them from the comings and goings of pollinators, such as bees, wasps and flies. Pollen is also distributed by wind and gravity.
University of Maryland Extension’s Home and Garden Information Center offers free gardening and pest information at extension.umd.edu/hgic. Click “Ask Maryland’s Gardening Experts” to send questions and photos.