Question of the Week – Number One: March 25, 2021

“I scratched the bark of my plant and it looked like it was green. Does that mean that it’s still alive?”

That “bark scratching” thing is like pre-season football polls. They’re both vastly over-rated. You can scratch until your whole thumb turns green. By then your thumb will probably catch fire from the heat, but it won’t bring lots of dead plants back to life.

“Green” is a plant pigment. It’s the chlorophyll they have in their leaves, and that’s critical to photosynthesis. Remember that from high school? Or, maybe not.

I put this photo and story on Facebook 9 days ago. It has been viewed one-half million times. These stems scratched green, but obviously the plants were gone. See what I wrote if you missed it.

But back to my point, even dead stems will still have chlorophyll weeks after they’ve given it all up and died. So, the old bark scratch thing isn’t of much help. Unless your bark itches.

Continued Below

“Twig bend.” Now there’s a better test. I told you about it right here several weeks back. You take a small twig and you bend it between your thumb and your index finger. If it’s pliable, it’s probably still good. Some of my Facebook people have been calling that “bendy.” Now, that’s a weird word. But if it snaps, that means it’s probably dried out and dead, and then they have other words that Facebook deletes for me.

Here’s an Indian hawthorn twig that was definitely not “bendy!” This baby is dead.

So, now that we’re into this “Is it dead yet” game as far as we are, for me, it’s pretty much out with the “bark scratch” and in with the “twig bend.”

Got that?

Good. Go forth and give it a try.

Posted by Neil Sperry
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