Nurse Tree

Hiking in the foothills last weekend, I noticed yellow flowers poking out from a leafless Hackberry tree. Coming closer, I saw a healthy Golden Currant growing up within the arms of the still dormant Hackberry. What’s going on?
Golden Currants are very widespread in the lower foothills, but they do not typically grow all by themselves on hot, dry hillsides. In this case, the currant–no doubt planted by a bird–was able to get established in the protective shade of the Hackberry, its ‘nurse tree’.
This example shows how currants (and other native plants) can be extremely tough and xeric if they are lucky enough to be nursed along through their first vulnerable year or two of growth.
On the same hike I saw other Golden Currants growing in the shade of Bitterbrush. Keep an eye out when you are hiking, you may see other ‘nurse tree’ or ‘nurse bush’ situations.

May 4, 2023