Trivia

Hard

When You See New Growth Rising Out Of An Old Tree Stump, You’re Seeing A?

Basal Shoot
Runner
Ghost Growth
Lazarus Leg
A group of basal shoots growing directly next to a tree.
Ron Clausen/Wikimedia

Answer: Basal Shoot

Most of the time, when you cut a tree down, that’s that. The tree is dead and the only matter left to attend to is whether or not you have the motivation (or need) to remove the stump. A tango with a chainsaw isn’t enough to keep all tree species down, however, and despite cutting down decades of old growth, you might find life springing anew from old stumps.

The trees that can perform this life-finds-a-way trickery belong to a group of plants known as “surculose”, or a broad grouping of plants, trees included, that can produce additional growth by sending out what are called “basal shoots” (also called root sprouts, adventitious shoots, water sprouts, or suckers). Botanically speaking, basal shoots are plants that grow not from a new seed, but from the base or roots of an existing plant (including sprouting off the side of a tree stump).

Common examples of trees found in North America that exhibit such behavior are Willow, Sumac, Alder, Poplar, Locust, Beech, and English Elm. Many of these species are considered “nuisance” trees because hardy seedlings will take hold near the foundations of homes, decking, or other construction and, even after they are cut down, the stump will continue to send up basal shoots. The only ways to stop the growth are to either excavate the entire stump (and potentially the entire root system) or to use herbicides to kill the entire plant (including the suckers and roots).

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