Pawpaw first aid

I just discovered this damage to my grafted sunflower pawpaw, planted earlier this summer. No idea what did it, but I’d like to know the best course of action:

Sorry for the blurriness. Notice that there is still a strip of bark connecting the broken branch. I’m thinking the following options are my best bets, in descending order of bestness:

  1. Tape it back together and hope it heals up, kind of like a graft would.
  2. Cut off the broken branch; there’s still plenty of tree left. Sprinkle it with root hormone or something and maybe get lucky with a second sunflower.

At this point I would wrap it together first with parafilm and then with tape. You have nothing to lose by trying. You can also relieve the moisture loss stress by clipping off the leaves above the graft except for a small amount. Good luck, Bill

I had something similar happen to an apple seedling a few years ago. It had an old wound from rabbits on one side of the trunk. I had put a gard around it when the damage happened in the winter. I thought everything was healing up nicely. It leafed out in the spring and I came home from work after a windy day to find it broken over. I pulled it back up and taped it together with electrical tape. It grew back together just fine but it had more wood and bark still connected than your tree.

Given how young that tree is it should come back fine. For more certain results I would splint the area after you tape it - put a stick next to it and wrap stick and pawpaw stem together.

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Fact of life: young paw paw branches are very dinky. A squirrel jumping from a nearby big tree to the top of an 8 foot tall grafted paw paw took out 2 such branches recently, and if paw paw branches were made of “real” wood it would have been no problem. But the soft fibrous outer tissue surrounding the marshmellow-like core has little ability to hold up under stress. If I were you I would fertilize the young tree, add decaying leaves around the base, and keep it consistently moist. The bud below the break could become the replacement branch. It looks like the buds on the broken branch are possibly mature enough to use the branch for regrafting somewhere. A plan “B” would be to quickly do a cleft graft with the de-leafed, trimmed, and Parafilm-wrapped branch on the same tree below the dormant bud. It is a gamble: do I trust the dormant bud to grow out, or do I trust grafting it below the bud…? For me, I would just graft it on another paw paw tree, and I would let the dormant bud take over the broken tree. As for trying re-attachment, that would be a whole lot less viable than a new cleft graft, at least to me. Grafting them in hot Summer is easier if you keep the grafted scion shielded from bright Sun light with some shading.

i agree. I too use sticks over the parafilm, then secured with rubber band(as needed), or when specimen is prized, i use thin iron nails as splints, then secured with copper wire for strength. The parafilm degrades over time, then the metal splints and copper coil ultimately get engulfed over and around with callous/cambium and becomes a permanent splint-- much stronger than the wood.

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I’d just prune it off. Seems pretty unlikely that it will heal.

Paw paw history repeats itself. This AM I noticed a 3 ft long branch with Wabash fruit (2 large, 1 small) that had broken during the night and was dangling by a sliver of bark. I removed the leaves and clipped 6 graftable scions. I brushed on New Skin over any upper twig wounds and have the angle-cut lower ends now soaking in 1" deep water with nutrients added for them to get fully hydrated and nourished before being grafted as greenwood/non-dormant scions tomorrow. Usually I tie a plastic “saddle” below weak branches with string tied off above to keep them from getting broken as the fruit weight plus possible critter weight pulls down too much. I neglected to tie this one. Laziness. I remember Paul Harvey’s radio program comment: “Why is it that we always have time to correct the things that we didn’t have time to do right the first time???”