I have a citrus tree of the Washington Navel variety, which is around 4 years old (and has been here for 2 of those). Naturally this means it's a scion grafted onto rootstock of which I don't know the variety.

A few weeks ago I got this branch shooting out from the middle of it, to the point where it doubles the height of the tree. The leaves are wider than those of the rest of the tree, and with its growth I worry that it's a sucker.

enter image description here

That's a close-up of the leaves. It also has some spines but they're not that exaggerated.

Now the thing is, from what I can see, it's coming from above the graft, which is what has gotten me confused. In fact it seems to be coming from the place all the other branches are.

enter image description here

So, is it a sucker? Should I have it cut down? Or is it just a branch which is growing very quickly?


Usually we reserve the term "sucker" to shoots arising from below the graft, and "water shoots" for those arising above the graft. The difference is that suckers allow inferior root stock vegetation to take over, eventually overwhelming the tree. Water shoots are the proper scion material, but in terms of quality and quantity of fruit produced (which is generally what we are after) the result is not as good as normally arising branches.

Some recommend removing the water shoot entirely, others think that you can prune back hard and force it to take its place among the other branches. It's clear however that it is currently producing enough leaf area to start depriving the better fruiting part of the tree of energy. Time for some corrective action, but wait a few hours for more comments before acting.

  • Would "corrective action" involve clipping it so it's the same height as the other branches, or removing it outright? – Haedrian Sep 8 '18 at 13:10
  • Well my inclination is for complete removal. You may get other suggestions. Something to bear in mind is why this happened. Check your tree thoroughly to see if there was a sudden event that stopped the rest of the tree from operating normally and caused the adventitious bud to burst into action. – Colin Beckingham Sep 8 '18 at 16:27
  • Well, I removed the offending branch. As to why it happened - we're having a horribly harsh summer this year, could that be the case? I'm in a Mediterranean country as it is (which the tree should like), but I don't think it appreciates heatwaves. – Haedrian Sep 9 '18 at 5:47

I think your graft has died and what is growing is all Trifoliate ( or other ) root-stock , because of the thorns. Unless you orange tree is supposed to have thorns.

  • The leaves shown in the picture are absolutely NOT trifoliate. As the name suggests, "tri-foliata" = "three leaves". Trifoliate leaves are also smaller than that. – PatrickT Feb 12 at 1:00
  • Citrus trifoliata , same as poncirus trifoliata , the thorns are a good indicator. – blacksmith37 Feb 12 at 21:52
  • The thorns are necessary but not sufficent... – PatrickT Feb 13 at 0:23

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