Over the last few months, visitors to the Boettcher Memorial Tropical Conservatory may have noticed some funny looking trees that look like they were cut in half…well, they have been. Growing plants in the Boettcher Tropical Conservatory presents many challenges such as monitoring light levels from the canopy down to the understory and keeping tabs on space and not letting plants outgrow their current locations without having to move them. A few of our trees, namely Cecropia peltata, Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Compton’ , Michelia champaca, have required some pretty major pruning in order to make the plants fit into their spaces, as well as, to allow more light to reach the understory plants.
The type of pruning we have carried out on the three aforementioned trees is called pollarding. Specifically, this means that we pruned heavily to reduce the plant to its main stem. As one may imagine, this lets in quite a bit more light and also allows the tree to remain in place if it has outgrown its area. Another great benefit of pruning woody plants back hard, and not only pollarding, but tip pruning as well, helps to rejuvenate woody tissues and encourage new growth and branching. Pruning is a very large part of yearly maintenance projects in the Boettcher Tropical Conservatory. I have always thought that it is fun in a way to prune a plant back pretty hard and patiently watch as new shoots, stems, leaves, etc. start to break and the plant regains its “tree-like” appearance as opposed to just being a trunk sticking out of the ground.
Currently, it is a great time to come in and see the Cecropia peltata trees sending forth their new branches. We pollarded these three trees back in early December, and they are really starting to explode. Up by the top deck frog tank, is the Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Compton’, which we pollarded a couple months back, and it is really starting to flush out some interesting looking new growth…you have to love those Fabaceous trees! Right as you walk into the Boettcher Tropical Conservatory, you will see the Michelia champaca, which was pollarded earlier this week. Come in and check out these funny look trees now, and then return in six months to see the new growth and forms that the trees have taken on, and maybe you’ll get as excited as I do to see the new growth emerge. Cheers!