What Are They?

Watersprouts, suckers, and epicormic shoots are all branches that grow from dormant buds hidden beneath tree bark. Watersprouts refer to branches along tree trunks and limbs. Suckers refer to branches growing out from the trunk base. Epicormic shoots are the technical term for all such growth, from the Greek epi – upon and kormos – tree trunk.

Regardless of what you call them, these shoots can be problematic because they’re weakly attached to the tree. As they become larger and heavier, they’re more prone to breaking and falling off. They can also crowd the canopy, compete for energy, and make trees more vulnerable to storm damage.

Why Do Trees Make Them?

Some tree species, like oaks and fruit trees, are more prone to developing watersprouts and suckers. But most of the time, they are an indication of tree stress and decline. Watersprouts and suckers can be caused by:
  • Excessive pruning and topping
  • Storm damage
  • Lawn mower or vehicle damage
  • Incompatible rootstock in grafts
  • Drought
  • Disease

How Can You Prevent Them?

  • Prune properly, don’t top trees!
  • Keep trees healthy and stress-free.
  • Irrigate properly.
  • Choose good tree stock at nurseries.
  • When removing watersprouts and suckers, make clean cuts close to the parent branch or trunk.