It’s a heck of a word. Now that I know what it is, it’s also one of my favorite wonders of nature.
You see, inosculation is the name for when two trees, all by themselves, decide to unite as one.
This is happening in our yard and, apparently, it’s pretty rare.
We recently had an arborist out to trim back our bushes and trees. I walked around to our backyard and found him staring at our two inosculated trees, scratching his head.
“You don’t see this very often,” he said in amazement. He went on to tell me that normally when two trees grow close together like ours have, they compete for resources. They fight at the roots for access to water, and they fight at the branches for access to sunlight.
Not so with our two trees. They have become one – a giant cottonwood and a slim pin oak. They hug at their trunks, spooning one another. Then, they reach high up into the sky with branches that peacefully coexist rather than fighting for space.
“Normally, we would have to trim one or both back to allow both trees to get sun,” the arborist told me. “But your trees seem to be managing just fine and there’s no need to help them out. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.”
Inosculation is the natural phenomenon of trees self-grafting and growing together.
A tree can graft its own branch back onto its own trunk, creating a circular shape. Or a tree can graft onto another, completely different tree – even one of a different species. All that needs to happen is for the bark layers to wear away, allowing the inner cambium cells of the trees to make contact. Then, the cambium growing layers of the two trees (or branches) fuse together over time.
According to several resources I found online, when two individual trees conjoin, they are called “marriage trees” or “husband and wife trees.” I could not possibly love this idea more. Our married trees even have smaller versions of themselves growing nearby, as if they’re their children.
Naturally conjoining trees have happened all over the world and, over time, have inspired both art and literature. Natural inosculation is rare enough that some old religions even associated spiritual meaning with these occurrences.
I’ve always loved spending time in nature and forest bathing. Now, I have a whole new reason to go out into our very own backyard and meditate with our husband and wife trees. Perhaps they have wild, ancient relationship secrets to share with me since they’ve clearly found happiness despite being very different.
I look forward to dragging my beloved hubby back there with me to tell him everything I’ve learned about inosculation and see if he wants to renew our marriage vows back there with our happily wedded trees.
Have you ever seen inosculated or “married” trees? I’d love to hear your tales of arboreal romance in the comments below or over on Facebook or Instagram.