An inch or two out of the soil was a smoke tree sapling, growing a few feet from the big smoke tree in the front yard. At first I didn’t think anything of it, beyond it being a nice surprise. I marked the area and gave it some water.
A week later I returned to dig it up, and pot it. I figured I would give it to somebody in the fall. Only for a moment did I wonder how it came to be.
I had instantly known it was a smoke tree, just by the matte green leaves with their blush of purple, but the fact that it was identical to the cultivar nearby, should’ve been the obvious sign that this wasn’t from seed. As I carefully dug out the small clone, and searched for its roots, it all suddenly made sense. This tiny tree was growing from a 6-inch piece of a branch, buried a couple inches in the soil. The result of having pruned the tree in the winter and scattering the chopped pieces in the area as mulch.
Surely I had tossed other pieces about, and after looking around the area I found another, an even smaller sprout, that was emerging from a thin buried branch. These pruned branches must have been accidentally covered by just enough soil, needles, and wood chips, while I was working nearby, that they didn’t dry out.
I have no idea if these branches will root further and last through the summer, the way some shrubs, like a red-twig dogwood, can grow from a cutting stuck straight in the ground. If they do, I’ll have to deliberately repeat this process next year.