Weak Crotches on Pawpaw Branches

And if they were…a pawpaw tree never gets as big as a full sized apple or pear tree anyhow…so the damage would be minimal.

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i would gues those are fine.

Most tree’s also have a “growth ring” with cells that heal over cuts faster. What your seeing might be that. (i always prune after the ring, (don’t prune off the ring) to let the wound heal over better)

If your considering cutting off a branc because of bark inclusion, before cutting you can always cut a sliver of the part you suspect has bark inclusion with your grafting knife.

If you see a dark line you might have bark inclusion (probably)
if it’s smooth cambium all the way. your probably fine.

skillcult also has a nice vid on this


Great video, thanks.

At 3:14 in the video Skillcult shows a joint that he calls good, based on angle. But what is that rough ridge of tissue that extends down into the joint? Is that included bark?.

@oscar can you please describe more how you cut a sliver to check for inclusion? Do you slice into the top or elbow of the joint?

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It’s to hard to see on the video to be 100% sure.

But i assume that ridge at 3:14 is bark exclusion. (the barke is pushed away from the points where the 2 branches “fuse” )

If you cut a smal sliver of that ridge off it. You wil proably see continious cambium/white wood. Where the branches properly grew together (fused).

With the bark inclusion the bark gets trapped between de branches and you also see a ridge. However the ridge usualy has a smal dip in the middle. Sort of dubble ridge.

If you cut a smal piece of that ridge you will see a black line in the middle where the bark is traped and going down into the crotch angle.

Usualy if you have bark inclusion the angle is so tight that you can’t get your knife close enough to even cut off a piece of that bark inclusion ridge.


Right, what I gathered from the earlier video is that inclusion shows a double ridge or in other words a raised area with a “valley” in the middle. Like an M shape instead of a simple hump/single ridge like in the pictures I posted earlier.

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Very helpful. A bark exclusion.

Have you ever seen included bark with a good branch angle (45 to 60 degrees)? The good angle prevents the inclusion, right?

Awesome explanation! The cut away view of the bark inside the trunk makes total sense why they are so weak. I wonder why sometimes the bark is included or excluded

My pawpaws have some bad angles because a few branches got away from me before I could intervene. Not sure how that happened with such a slow growing tree. What’s that say about me? Haha. When they sag down with fruit I string them up, so no breaks at least so far.

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This pawpaw will be the mac daddy of bark inclusion in a few years. All of my younger trees I have been training them to avoid this issue.


I think you all are worried about nothing. Anybody have photos of this alleged
calamity that befalls paw paws from bad crotch angles?
(Pictures of broken limbs with fruits hanging straight towards the ground?)


I was thinking the same thing… pawpaws have pretty flexible/non-brittle wood that I think probably helps to absorb extra weight of fruit (or snow/ice). But I didn’t feel comfortable giving that opinion because all my experience with pawpaws is wild groves where I used to forage regularly, so I’ve never pruned or otherwise managed the trees. But I planted some tiny sticks a few weeks ago so I’ll be thinking about these topics in coming years.

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I just want to comment, that my previous comments where more about (fruit)tree growing in general. Virtually all fruit tree’s can have bark inclusion due to bad crotch angles.

I have no specific experiance with pawpaws. So can’t say either way.

However the principle is equal for all the tree’s. The included bark can’t be pushed out because the angle is to small. This leads to an area thats not connected between the 2 branches. This non connected area usualy grows with age. And is a weak spot. Although the natural strength of the wood can be a factor. I don’t expect it to be a really large factor.

From what i remember from books/literature. most crotch angles around 60 degre’s are usualy still oky. So bark inclusion does not happen that much. I usualy still bend framework branches 45 degrees or horizontal though. This gives more fruitfulnes and stronger crotches than the steeper angles. But not as dramaticly different strength wise as bark inclusion vs no bark inclusion.

i usualy only worrie about bark inclusion / bad crotch angles on framework branches.

it is hard to see on a picture. (can’t see the ridge in the crotch angle)
But i don’t immediatly see really bad crotch angles. So would not worrie to much.
Although im relativly new to fruit tree growing. And crotch angle problems usualy become aparant on older tree’s.

So when in doubt. try and cut a bit into the ridge looking for continious wood/cambion or the black bark inclusion line. (that is what i do when in doubt)

I had a weak crotch on an 8 year old pawpaw; I noticed it and then thought “whatever” and not knowing what was normal for a paw paw habit or what to do about it, just ignored it. When loaded with fruit and leaves and then a big storm came, it tore off the branch and of course ripped down the bark and just looked horrid. It healed eventually, the tree had great vigor but note to self: fix those bad crotches early.


Yikes :fearful:
Maybe I should be more vigilant and aggressive in spotting/correcting/removing

Oops wasn’t doing anything just let them grow. Next year will be cutting some out always got a lot of other things to do.

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I think most people do just let pawpaws grow and I think most of them are fine.

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Just pruned a few of my soon-to-be third leaf pawpaws after reading this thread. Most of the crotches were fine. Two at 40 degree angles had inclusions. That brown crud shown in the skilcult picture was starting to form at the crotch.

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Useually you don’t get bark inclusion at 40 degree’s. Do you have a picture?
It is sometimes hard to spot. But the ridge near the crotch can be where the bark is pushed out. (excluded) or where it is trapped (included)

Im not saying your wrong. Just that it is rare at that angle. Could be that pawpaw is extra sensitive to it. Would be good info to know.

One of my big annoyances with pawpaws is the way the branches curve upward toward vertical.
The crotch itself may be 60 degrees or more but a few inches from the trunk the branch curves sharply upward.
I call it the menorah look.

It creates some crowding as the branch invades the space of branches above.

Several of my trees are also two dimensional only. Crazy genetics. Ready-made espaliers.

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