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I have a big tree in the garden (left in the picture).

On one of its roots, another smaller tree is growing (right in the picture). It looks odd, almost as if the smaller tree is growing into the root of the bigger one. The roots of the smaller tree are also embracing those of the bigger one.

enter image description here

Is this smaller tree a parasite? Does it do any harm to the bigger tree? Should I remove it?

I'm not sure what type of tree the smaller tree is. Here's a close up of one of its leaves: enter image description here


It isn't clear if your big tree - or your little tree - has leaves that look like that. Or is it both?

The smaller tree has leaves like that. The bigger tree is a different species.

  • Can you take a picture of the back side of the leaf? And a picture of the leaves on the tree for better identification. Not that it matters. It's not a parasite. It might be sharing resources. They may have fussed with time, but the chances they are compatible for one to grow off the other is very slim. It would be a natural form of grafting. I don't see problem, unless you don't like the look. This kind of stuff happens in natural areas all the time. If there is a battle for resources, the larger tree will win. – GardenGems Dec 25 '19 at 19:18
  • @GardenGems sounds like an answer to me. – null Dec 25 '19 at 20:47
  • I don't know enough of the variable to call it a reliable answer. It would be better if I could identify the smaller tree. can you get some other pictures? – GardenGems Dec 25 '19 at 20:53
  • I think it's a type of holly. The bark matches and the leaf looks like a type of holly. The veining in the leaf looks correct, but I'd love to see the back side. – GardenGems Dec 25 '19 at 20:59
  • What part of the world are you in? – Bamboo Dec 26 '19 at 11:23
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The small tree is a species of Ilex (Holly). There are many different species of holly. Not all have thorns. Not all are evergreen. Most are quite vigorous taking advantage of any opening to start to grow, especially around fertile soil. Ilex aquifolium, AKA English Holly is very invasive in many part of the North America. Bird eat the berries and spread the seeds. The seeds will germinate in almost any type of soil conditions. This specie can have both smooth leaves and leaves with thorns.

It appears someone has tried to remove the tree once before with no luck. Holly can regrow from their roots, so cutting it down will accomplish very little. If you kept cutting it back before it had a chance to take off, year, after year, after year you would weaken the tree enough that it would die, but otherwise you will not be able to kill it. You can not use a herbicide. It is too close too the other tree. It would take significiant amount of herbicide to kill the holly.

As I mentioned before the tree are not compatible, meaning the holly tree is not a parasite/grafted on to the larger tree. It is obviously entangled this can put stress on your larger tree. But, the current size of the large tree makes me believe any stress will not be noticeable. There is a possibility the large tree will kill the smaller holly, but I believe they are going to grow side by side for many years. Probably will eventually touch one another.

This kind of growth is not uncommon in a natural setting. You need to decide if you want the tree there or not. If not it will take a commitment to kill the holly, but it can be done with time.

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That leaf looks like it comes from some kind of oak tree. Like maybe a live oak? (But apparently there are many species even of live oaks). So, ... "Quercus something-us"

It isn't clear if your big tree - or your little tree - has leaves that look like that. Or is it both?

That last option seems most likely to me. It looks like the little tree is suckering off of the big tree. It has sprouted out of the root where the root was exposed to the air.

If that is the case, I wouldn't call the small tree a "parasite", because it is a part of the larger organism. (The bark of the two trees looks a lot different, but that might be because of the youth of the little tree-stem.)

People refer to these little trees sprouting from the root of the main tree as "suckers", and if they are caring for fruit trees, they trim the suckers off because they take nutrients from the main (fruit bearing) part of the tree, and they make for a messier growth pattern, etc.

If what you have is indeed an oak tree, you probably aren't worried about fruit production, but it will cause your tree's profile to be scrubbier and less neat/elegant. If the two trees appear to be the same organism (same leaf type, etc.) I say go ahead and prune off the sucker.

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  • It's not one organism. Sorry for the confusion. I added a clarification to my question. – null Dec 25 '19 at 18:04

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