I’ve gown Pinus Radiata (Monterey pines) on and off over the years and have somewhat of a love hate relationship with the species. They have several good points and are readily available as escapees from the several large plantations close to home. They have great characteristics such as good bark, fast growth and seemingly high survival rate when collecting but………. That said, their foliage can be ‘scrappy’ and there seems to be a big difference between older examples and more modern plantation escapees which I think is due to the genetic selection of the forestry stock and how it has changed over the years. These younger trees seem to have much more twisty and messy needle formations and growth patterns compared to older stock examples.

Near home is one of the first radiata stock trees that was selected for a parent or mother tree of much of the forestry stock at the time (planted in the 1880’s). From what I understand this tree was used early on but is no longer a parent, as better examples were grown, bred and fine tuned.

That said i have been digging various specimens again with the idea of grafting them over to white pine or perhaps red pine to make use of the great bark but also get good foliage characteristics. Well, at least that was the plan…..

While out exercising the family in one of the local forests, I came across this radiata witches broom located not too high up in the canopy. I found another of these a couple of years ago, but while waiting for the right season to graft, the plot of trees was logged, losing my opportunity.

This one I should have a lot more time up my sleeve to try to get some material off it to propagate as the trees it is growing in amongst are much younger and likely 10 years away from harvest.

What are witches brooms I hear you ask? Essentially they are a form of damage to a tree (virus, insect or otherwise) that change the genetics of a particular area of growth on a tree often resulting in a dense twiggy dwarf section of growth. Often these areas can be propagated (via layer, grafting or cutting etc.) to retain these characteristics and create new versions of the parent stock.

This broom was showing dense growth and shorter more compact and neat needles so I am hopeful it may be a good candidate to replace scrappy radiata foliage with and still keep it in the family so to speak. Time will tell I suppose.

Who knows it could turn out to be a good new bonsai stock option. Many famous dwarf cultivars started as witches brooms; for example, yatsubusa Japanese black pine came from a witch’s broom on a kotobuki black pine.

ON A SIDE NOTE: Has anyone had much success grafting radiata pines (Monterey pines)? What species did you try? I’d be really keen to here about your experiences in the comments!