‘Scion’ is the horticultural name used to describe the cuttings taken from fruit trees which are then grafted on to rootstock to create new fruit trees. This is how fruit trees such as ‘Granny Smith’ apples or ‘Bing’ cherries are ‘made’. Named fruit trees (or ‘cultivars’ or ‘varieties’) are cloned, not grown from seed.
Though there exist many videos describing how to graft fruit trees, very few describe scion collection. This video, made for the Agrarian Sharing Network, provides a basic primer on everything you need to know to collect and store scion well, for your own grafting needs and for those of your larger community.
Cutting and storing scion is a simple task. Here are a few pointers:
Be very careful with ID and labeling – collect from trees that have fruited already so the variety is known. Preferably, cut scion about the diameter of a lead pencil, to 12” lengths, although shorter pieces are fine. ’Pruning cuttings’ often fit the bill perfectly. Tightly tie or rubber-band a dozen or so healthy cuttings in a clearly-labeled bundle.
Collecting scion is time-sensitive. Scion wood needs to be cut in the winter while it is dormant (before the buds have very visibly begun swelling), then kept cool until it is grafted onto rootstock in the spring, ‘when the sap is rising’. Here, in the maritime Pacific-Northwest, late-January-early-February sees the end of our ‘dormancy collection window’ for stone-fruit such as peaches, plums and cherries. Asian and European pears quickly follow, then apples. Some varieties of these crops types ‘bud out’ earlier or later than most.
Vigorous shoots are best but avoid collecting from suckers or water-sprouts (these shoots, which grow vertically from the base of the tree or vertically from lateral branches, are slowest to bear fruit). Collect first-year wood (last year’s growth) preferably from laterals. Next-favored are the terminal shoots at the top of the tree.
Once collected, don’t let the scion dry out. Experienced hands will tend to label each variety clearly, place it in a moist (not saturated) medium such as paper towels or old cloth, and wrap in plastic. (The plastic bags the newspaper comes in work well. Double the bag because one will often have a hole in it.) Place in the refrigerator at about 34° to 38° until grafting time: keeping the scion cool keeps it dormant; keeping it damp, keeps it fresh.
Further curiosty about scion collection? Google: “Penhallegon scion” or write to our Facebook group, Agrarian Sharing Network.