Reworking a 20 yr old plum

Can anyone tell me where the cambium is on this stump? I’d like to cleft graft a few varieties of plums onto this, but I can’t see the green cambium. I had good luck last year splicing but I could match the green to green visibly. This old trunk isn’t showing me much. I marked a spot where I think the cambium should be, still there’s no green color to go by. Could it be too early for it to show color or something else? Any guidance at all would be appreciated, cause I’m “stumped”…

I’m sorry, but I can’t upload a picture of the trunk. It says it’s too large and I need to resize. That kinda makes this whole post useless. I’ll try later to get a picture up.

John, I hope you do get the picture up- I’d love to see more about this project. Reworking old trees is just such a neat thing to do- and it’s amazing what plums can go through and come back from.

Would this thread from back in January be of any use to you? Evidently Scott has been working on this problem for a while:

Last I checked it should resize automatically unless its a .png file. If its a png, convert to jpg before uploading and it should work. If the jpg is not working I would like to know, I tried a bunch and they all worked.

I’d like to see a picture of the whole tree.

You can use this tool to resize your image, I’d recommend 720 x 540.

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The cambium isn’t going to be green esp this time of yr. I’ve never seen green cambium, well maybe really light cream colored green. The cambium on a dormant stump is just the fine line of tissue between bark and wood. If the bark isn’t slipping, and it won’t be on a dormant stump, it may be hard to identify.

Rather than a cleft graft, you have the option of using a wedge graft when working on a stump.
This is how the professionals do it.
Rather than “matching” the cambium, a “cross” may be more reliable as explained at 9:30 on the video.
Wedge Graft Tutorial Video


Since peaches seem to fade away after a decade or so, I would not graft on an old peach tree. My oldest plum tree was about 20 when it began to decline…and decline…and got removed. I wonder how worthwhile it would be to try grafting on an old plum tree. You know, put the money on the young stallion rather than the old mare. A young, healthy, fed and watered plum tree can sure grow up fast. Are 25-30 year old plum trees that make good crops a likelihood?

Fair question. And I don’t know about trees that you’re likely to get from the nursery. I do know of several plums that are well past twenty years in age -some over 40- that are productive and healthy. I suspect they are seedling prunes or maybe suckers of prunes. I also know of half a dozen or more apricots that have to be over 40 years old, and bear with little or no maintenance. Probably, again, seedlings.

So I don’t know. But if I had a basically healthy 20 year old plum that had been somehow damaged I wouldn’t hesitate to work it over and hope for the best.


Finally got pics to upload, sorry Scott, the problem was probably on my end.

This tree came from a tree my grandmother had for many years and is sort of sentimental to keep it going. If cambium isn’t green then do I put the scion in between the brown outer layer (bark) and the blondish light colored wood? I marked a spot with an arrow pointing to where I think the graft should be. The brown outer ring is easily opened with a screwdriver and the scion would fit pretty snug, if that would work.

@justjohn Do you know how to do a bark graft?

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I’ve seen some youtube videos of bark grafting and that is how I’m leaning. It looks like the easiest way to graft this old plum. Definatly going to look into it more. Thanks!

The cambium is right where the color changes from bark to wood. If it really easily opens up there you could stick a scion in. My experience is it doesn’t easily open unless the bark is slipping. Maybe it is slipping

I’d do a splice or W&T on the smaller shoots. It looks like you’ve done that. So try the bark graft as well. Maybe one or both will work.

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Thanks Fruitnut, yes I’ve got splices and scions stuck all over the place. I even saved a good sized shoot to keep for an original. I was just wanting to be a little more sure when I graft to the main trunk. I hope I can get something to take on the main part, all that smaller stuff may get cut off, eventually…maybe, maybe not. Thanks for the advice!

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With bark graft you will automatically have lots of cambium to cambium contact as long as you wait until sap is coming up and “the bark is slipping.” Here in 7B Maryland that usually starts the first week of April at least with apples.

You want to test your tree to make sure the bark is slipping before you do any bark grafts. You can cut off a small branch on the tree, make a couple vertical cuts say 1/4 inch apart and see if you peel the bark strip back cleanly. This may be clear as mud, Ha! If the bark strip does not peel back cleanly, do not graft and come back a week later. Am guessing in zone 8 ARK your bark will slip late March.

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Thanks Hambone! I will do that. Got plenty scions wrapped and cooling in the fridge so I’ll patiently wait for the bark to slip. This is mostly all new to me, so I appreciate all the help.


@fruitility - I can’t imagine why that would happen in your climate zone and environment. There are producing peach orchards around the U.S. a century or more old.

I have found bark grafts on plum stumps to be structurally inadequate for at least the first year. Once they leaf out in the summer, they are prone to breaking off in windy conditions . I’d recommend adding some bracing for at least a year to any bark grafts that take. Grafting to the water sprouts on the trunk works well and tends to be a lot stronger.

You will need to make a fresh cut lower down on the trunk at the time you graft since the top of that stump is probably drying out and dying back now.

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Can you point out some examples?

Re: bark graft instability from wind, birds, etc. The man who taught me to graft in the 1970’s taught me to put two tiny nails into each graft. I forget the gauge, some call them escutcheon pins: thin, about 3/4 to one inch long. I’ve also seen people staple them in.

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