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Inosculated branches drawn by Arthur Wiechula (19th century)

Inosculation is a natural phenomenon in which trunks or branches of two trees grow together. When occurring in plants, it is biologically very similar to grafting. Osculation itself is the act of kissing.

It is most common for branches of two trees of the same species to grow together, though inosculation may be noted across related species. The branches first grow separately in proximity to each other until they touch. At this point the bark on the touching surfaces normally comes away due to movement of the trees by wind. Once the cambium of two trees touches, they self graft and grow together.

Inosculation customarily results when trees are pleached.

Contents

In plastic surgery

Inosculation is also used in the context of plastic surgery as one of the three mechanisms by which skin grafts take at the host site (the others being capillary invasion and capillary ingrowth along original vascular channels). Blood vessels from the recipient site are believed to connect with those of the graft in order to restore vascularity.

Acer pseudoplatanus showing inosculation
Conjoined Sycamore Maples

Species

Inosculation is most common among the following species due to a thin bark.

Husband and Wife blackthorns (Prunus spinosa) at Lynncraigs, Dalry

Husband a Wife tree

A Husband and Wife tree or Marriage tree is formed from two trees which have branches that have been inosculated, whether artificially or naturally and have attracted the name due to their physical appearance. The plural isn't applied as they are 'joined as one.'

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Origin of the name

Beech tree trunks conjoined.
Garnett's 18th century 'Marriage tree'.

The straightforward application of the term comes from the obvious unification of two separate individual trees, however a more humorous use of the term relates to the suggestive appearance of some natural examples.

The name Husband and Wife tree also comes in more detailed form from an analogy of the material and natural world that can be used to describe a married couple’s relationship:

A married man and woman are like two separate trees planted in different holes at the same time. They are a permanent fixture in the landscape and together watch the years and seasons pass. They are the same size and one does not hinder the growth of the other. Because they stand so close together they are not as subject to wind or ice damage as a single trees is. The two together are more likely to survive adversity. They grow very close to one another but they are truly separate. There is space enough between them for the wind and air to pass. Their roots are entangled from beneath and how they are joined is hidden from the World. They derive their sustenance from the same source. One can not be separated from the other without risking them both.[1]

A degree of religious intent may exist as some cults are organized around beliefs that trees contain hidden or sacred power to cure or to enhance fertility or that they contain the souls of ancestors or of the unborn.[2]

Examples of Husband and Wife trees

Deliberate

Eric Sloane describes Husband and Wife trees in A Reverence For Wood in which he says The big trees appeared two at a time, placed as ‘husband and wife trees’ when a house was built. They were usually on the east side of the house or at each side of the entrance; you could pick out farmhouses on any New England landscape by these double clumps of green.[3] Most of these trees may not have become physically conjoined.

At the ruined Lynncraigs Farm in Dalry, Scotland a blackthorn (Prunus spinosa) stands in the old farm garden which shows signs of having been deliberately grafted.

Natural

A fig tree

On his 'Tour of Scotland', published in 1800, T. Garnett notes a tree near Inverary that the locals called the Marriage tree, formed from a lime tree with two trunks that have been joined together by a branch in the manner of a person putting their arm around another (see illustration) as would a married couple.[4]

On the way to the Heavenly Lake near Urumqi in China are a pair of trees that local people have called the Husband and Wife trees because they are connected together by a living branch.[5] The Tatajia Husband and Wife trees are in Taiwan[6] and in Yakushima, Kagoshima-ken, Japan, are a pair of Husband and Wife trees formed from conjoined cedars.[7] The Marriage Tree on Wassaw Island, Georgia, was named by the family who vacationed there and consists of a Bay and a Palm fused at the root.[8]

Conjoined trees

The classic Husband and Wife tree with branches conjoined.
Conjoined beech tree roots.

Two trees may grow to their mature size adjacent to each other and seemingly grow together or conjoin, demonstrating the process of inosculation. These may be of the same species or even trees of two different genera or families, depending on whether the two trees that have become truly grafted together (once the cambium of two trees touches, they self graft and grow together) or not. Usually grafting is only between two trees of the same or closely related species or genera, however the appearance of grafting can be given by two trees that are physically touching. rubbing, intertwined, or entangled.[9]

As can be seen from the examples given both conifers and deciduous trees can become conjoined. Beech trees in particular are frequent conjoiners[10] Inosculation occurs in blackthorn (Prunus spinosa). Inosculation is most frequently found amongst species with a thin bark, including Apple, Almond, Beech, Dogwood, Elm, Grape, Hazel, Hornbeam, Laburnum, Lime, Maple, Sycamore, and Willow.

References

Notes

Sources

  • Garnett, T. (1800). Observations on a Tour of the Highlands and part of the Western Isles of Scotland. London : Cadell & Davies.

External links

  • [1] Tree Marriages in India.
  • [2] Wedding Tree Gift pack.
  • [3] American Marriage Tree tradition.

See also


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