growing an ecosystem of abundance

Making the Best of the Scion Exchanges, Part 1: Collecting Scions to Bring

Happy Winter Solstice!

You may be anxious to start winter pruning, as the last leaves have been blown off with these early winter storms, but don’t forget to also gather your Scions! Whether you are propagating your own trees, or sharing with others at the various California Rare Fruit Growers Scion Exchanges in Northern California (, here are some guidelines for success-

Watch this informative little video, made by Rebecca Newburn and me, which goes over most of what to do, or just continue reading below:

Labeling, Gathering and Storing Scions:

There are several things to consider when handling scions.

1) Bring clean, disease and pest-free, leafless
cuttings. Clean your pruning shears with 90%
rubbing alcohol between different trees you are
cutting. We don’t want to spread any pests or
disease. Please do not bring any citrus scions.
see my prior blog post on why.

2) Please only bring scions or cuttings from
trees you know have fruited “true to type”. It
is important to bring only scions that you are
certain of the variety name, such as you have
received them labeled from a reliable nursery or
grower. Do not bring material from trees that
have not yet born fruit, as they may have been
mislabeled. It is frustrating to collect scion
wood, graft, and care for a tree for years, just to
find the original scion was a mislabeled
donation to the exchange. However, if you have
an unusually good fruit without a variety name,
bring it and label it as best you can, maybe with a “?”.
–(see label section below.)

3) Don’t bring scion wood that is protected by a plant patent.
We respect the work of fruit breeders, and will not
allow cuttings of any fruit varieties that are
protected by a current Plant Patent, i.e., most
Zaiger varieties. Many older (20+ years) patented varieties
have expired patents, so those varieties will be
accepted (see our website for a list). If you are
uncertain if a plant is currently under patent,
please ask a CRFG member.

4) Cut the scions at the right time. Do this
when the tree is fully dormant (around the New
Year). Take only from the long new growth of the current
year found at the tips of branches, down to
where the bark changes color or the twig has
wrinkles in the smooth bark. Don’t bring short,
stubby ‘fruiting spurs’.

5) Take suitable-sized cuttings. For most
plants take 5-8″ long cuttings, preferably about
as thick as a pencil but smaller is okay. For figs,
grapes, and mulberries take longer cuttings that
contain at least 4 buds.

single scion label

print this label to use to identify your scions

6) Label what you bring
A good label really helps others to choose what
will work for them. We will have pre-printed,
form labels (that you can fill in) at the Exchange,
or you can download a label template from our
website and print them yourself.
At the very least, please write a basic label for
each bag of scions you bring – one that says
(for example) something like “red plum, very
sweet, early, grown in Berkeley.”
You can print this pdf file to make a label template: Scion Label- 6/sheet-

7) Store your scions with just a sprinkle of
water, in sealed plastic bags in the fridge (35-
37°F), but don’t freeze them.
Some scion collection references are at our
GGCRFG website.

Do you have unique varieties in your backyard or
In addition to standard, well-known old and/or new
varieties, we are especially interested in
varieties from your backyard/neighborhood that
are unique seedlings or otherwise worth saving.
For example, a CRFG member in Berkeley has
an unique old apple tree her father
planted from a seed (pippin) in the 1940’s. She
says the fruit is great tasting and bears in July, very
early in the apple season. She has named
the variety after her father.
What rare varieties could you share?

Watch this blog for more coming on:

“Making the Best of the Scion Exchange: Part 2 Making you Fruit Variety Shopping List”


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