One of the uncommon edible berries that we grow is sea buckthorn – Hippophae rhamnoides which should not be confused with the common buckthorn – Rhamnus cathartica which is quite invasive. As with many of the uncommon fruits and berries that we grow, we discovered this one in a Charles Nardozzi column, Unusual Edible Berries. We liked that it was extremely hardy, was a nitrogen fixer and was very high in vitamin C. It is also lethally thorny so when we discovered a thornless variety, Harvest Moon, we decided to buy some bushes. That’s when we found out that there are male and female plants and you don’t know what you’ve got for a number of years. We bought our plants from DNAGardens who, at the time, were propagating using a technique known as tissue culturing so we knew that we had male and female plants. What I didn’t know at the time was that it is very difficult to propagate sea buckthorn by either softwood or hardwood cuttings.
But a single line in Michael Dirr’s The Reference Manual of Wood Plant Propagation suggested a possible propagation technique: This species suckers profusely; a good indication that it will regenerate from root pieces. I’ve not seen any suckering on our plants but I figured it was worth a try. So I carefully uncovered roots on both the male and female plants and cut off two of the small roots from each, potted them up in Pro-Mix BX and waited. Eleven days later one of the male roots had a tiny bit of green.
By April 30, this little nub of a shoot was 1 ½” tall.
And that second male cutting was showing a trace of green.
Neither of the female cuttings are showing any green but they may yet surprise given the performance of the second male root. And it’s not that important since we have 5 female plants and 2 male plants. We now have 4 male plants which greatly reduces the impact of one of the male plants dying. And we now have another propagation tool at our disposal.
Hmmm, what other of our trees and shrubs have I seen suckers on? Hazelnut, mulberry, red maple, wild apples. Perhaps any tree or shrub that can be stooled can also be propagated from root cuttings? Stay tuned.