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Anatomy of a Fruit Tree

Information about the parts which make up a fruit tree


Anatomy of a treeKnowing the different parts of a fruit tree is useful, especially if you are not familiar with them or have never grown fruit trees before. In fact, knowing the difference between branches and laterals or rootstocks and scions may prove invaluable when it comes to buying, planting and pruning as misunderstanding the terms can lead to low yields,  failed crops or planting the wrong tree in the wrong place.


Below is a brief explanation plus links to more detailed articles. 

Parts of a Fruit Tree

Union join Rootstock ScionMost cultivated fruit trees which you buy today  will be made up of two parts which have been joined together i.e. grafted. You can easily tell if you have a grafted tree as the graft bud where the two parts are joined together is usually very clear being slightly knobbly,  and  is towards the bottom of the tree.

This join should never be buried and preferably be well above the soil level to ensure the desired growing characteristics are preserved. For more information about buying and planting fruit trees see  How to plant fruit trees and bushes.

Tree Graft Bud, Scion and RootstockThe upper section above the graft bud is the part which will grow on to bear the fruit and is known as the scion. This is the section which defines the name of the variety (cultivar) when buying e.g.  a Victoria Plum or a Morello Cherry, and therefore the characteristics of the fruit.  For more information about the different cultivars for various fruit see Fruit Tree Varieties (coming soon).

The lower section below the graft bud including the roots, is known as the rootstock. This part determines the vigour and size of the tree so choosing the right rootstock is very important to ensure you have the right size of tree for the space available and also affects the shape of the tree (standard, fan, cordon etc). For more information about the different rootstocks and their characteristics see Rootstocks and for more information about the shapes of fruit trees see Fruit Tree Forms .

Parts of a TreeAs mentioned above, the scion grows on to form the fruit bearing parts of a fruit tree which is comprised of 4 main components: 

1. The stem or trunk  'Leader' 
2. Main 'Branches' which come directly off the Leader 
3. 'Laterals'  which come off the Branches 
4. Leaves

Try to familiarise yourself with these parts as soon as you can as getting them muddled can be costly due to the fact that many fruit trees bear most of their fruit on laterals. Incorrect pruning can therefore lead to having no fruit at all or, after a few years, fruit only on the extremities of the tree. For information about pruning, see the individual growing fruit guidelines.


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