Have you noticed one or more strange upright stems growing from your tree's trunk or branches? Those bundles of branch-like stems are known as water sprouts. The reason they look so out of place is that they shouldn't be there.
Water sprouts are a sign that your tree is under stress.
Stress Results in Water Sprouts
In a natural setting, such as a forest, water sprouts are a tree's means of saving itself if it is badly hurt. The leaves on the water sprouts may help the tree to take in more food to speed up its healing. This means that if you have spotted water sprouts on the trunk or branches of your tree, it has suffered some form of damage recently.
Your Tree May Be Suffering
Water sprouts emerge from what are usually dormant buds on both the trunk and branches. Since they usually appear when a tree has been damaged, you should examine your tree to ascertain the reason for the new and sudden growth.
In many cases, pruning damage is the cause of water sprouts. This happens because the person pruning removes too much of the tree, or they damage the tree whilst pruning it. For example, cutting a branch off too close to the main trunk makes the wound more difficult for the tree to heal. As a result, it heals more slowly and is open to pest or disease invasion.
Unfortunately, damage can occur in a number of ways. Anything that harms your tree, such as disease, bad pruning and borer damage, can initiate the growth of water sprouts.
So, if water sprouts grow to help a tree survive its wounds, then aren't they a good thing? Not necessarily.
Water Sprouts Aren't Always Good
As well as being unattractive to look at, water sprouts are also almost of no use in an urban setting. For instance, if your tree is stressed, you can help it by watering it or adding fertilizer to the soil if your tree is not getting enough nutrients or water. You should also call an arborist to assess your tree and treat it if necessary.
In addition, if you leave water sprouts to grow, they will expend valuable food that your tree could have used elsewhere. This could slow your tree's growth elsewhere. Moreover, because these new growths are thinner and much weaker than normal branches, they could break off later and damage the surrounding area if not removed.
If you have spotted water sprouts on your tree's trunk or branches, you should call an arborist to remove them and examine your tree for signs of damage or disease.