What happens when my dad teaches me something about trees... (Hint: METAPHORS)

When my parents were visiting, my dad walked with us around the yard and, per our request, pointed out the places where we've got lilies coming up, where our future vegetable garden will be happiest, where we might want to plant our dwarf Alberta spruce (we chose a live Christmas tree last year)...that kind of thing. It was great—who knew it would feel so empowering to get really acquainted with our property? (Maybe you knew this already.)

One thing I keep thinking about is the suckers in our trees. Since my dad pointed them out, I see them everywhere (and not just in our trees, but in trees all over Appleton). You'd recognize them as the thinner stems that shoot skyward off the main branches of a tree. They're so perfectly...vertical, I'm surprised I never noticed them before.

The suckers on a tree zap water and nutrients, but they're not parasitic; they're just the tree's response to some stress or injury, an effort to grow more branches and therefore stay alive. And you're meant to prune them back before the tree's leaves return in the spring (and certainly before the suckers themselves age, turn into bark-covered branches, and become almost impossible to remove), because they ruin the tree's shape and divert energy from the rest of the tree.

I always assumed trees should be left alone for the most part. Obviously dead branches need to be dealt with, but besides that—and maybe topiaries (the poodle of the tree world)?—I thought grooming and shaping was nonessential to tree health.

I found an article on a website called The Spruce, and they say this about watersprouts (aka suckers):

In nature, they are perhaps a way for a damaged plant to recover, but in the garden, they are considered to be a waste of energy put towards weak, out of place growth. As tender, young growth, watersprouts are believed to be a vulnerable access point for pathogen attacks. Certainly, in an orchard and other situations of highly regulated growing shapes, they are a nuisance, breaking the good architecture of the plant with weak wood that won’t bear fruit.

Oof. The writer in me sees nothing but human-related metaphors here.

So, today, some food for thought:

  • How have you dealt with your damage?

  • Are you holding onto past coping mechanisms and, in the process, creating opportunities for more struggle to sneak in?

  • Do you see ways in which you're wasting precious energy, nurturing the non-fruit-bearing parts of yourself out of fear or a scarcity mentality?

And taking it one step further:

Is it possible your 'suckers' (sounds dirty—but I promise I'm not going there) are the result of some perfectly legitimate and necessary actions you took in the past...but are now hindering your next level of real growth?


As always, leave a comment below to continue the conversation.