Romans 11 — Grafting: The Horticultural Demonstration of Human Amalgamation with God

“I am doing a sermon this Sunday on grafting (Romans 11: 11-24).  Why do people graft, what makes them choose the root and the scion. If you have some ideas on how to physically illustrate it I would like to hear those. to. I never knew about all of this until I started to study this passage. I watched an interesting video about it today. ~J.”


Thank you for your email regarding grafting.  I’m probably going to give you more detail than you will ever need, but then you will be able to fit it into your sermon as appropriate.

To answer your questions:

1.  Why Do People Graft?  What Makes Them Chose The Rootstock and the Scion?

–Dwarfing: To induce dwarfing or cold tolerance or other characteristics to the scion. Most apple trees in modern orchards are grafted on to dwarf or semi-dwarf trees planted at high density. They provide more fruit per unit of land, higher quality fruit, and reduce the danger of accidents by harvest crews working on ladders.

–Ease of propagation: Because the scion is difficult to propagate vegetatively by other means, such as by cuttings. In this case, cuttings of an easily rooted plant are used to provide a rootstock. In some cases, the scion may be easily propagated, but grafting may still be used because it is commercially the most cost-effective way of raising a particular type of plant.

–Hybrid breeding: To speed maturity of hybrids in fruit tree breeding programs. Hybrid seedlings may take ten or more years to flower and fruit on their own roots. Grafting can reduce the time to flowering and shorten the breeding program.

–Hardiness: Because the scion has weak roots or the roots of the stock plants have roots tolerant of difficult conditions. e.g. many showy Western Australian plants are sensitive to dieback on heavy soils, common in urban gardens, and are grafted onto hardier eastern Australian relatives. Grevilleas and eucalypts are examples.

–Sturdiness: To provide a strong, tall trunk for certain ornamental shrubs and trees. In these cases, a graft is made at a desired height on a stock plant with a strong stem. This is used to raise ‘standard’ roses, which are rose bushes on a high stem, and it is also used for some ornamental trees, such as certain weeping cherries.

–Pollen source: To provide pollenizers. For example, in tightly planted or badly planned apple orchards of a single variety, limbs of crab apple may be grafted at regularly spaced intervals onto trees down rows, say every fourth tree. This takes care of pollen needs at blossom time, yet does not confuse pickers who might otherwise mix varieties while harvesting, as the mature crab apples are so distinct from other apple varieties.

–Repair: To repair damage to the trunk of a tree that would prohibit nutrient flow, such as stripping of the barkby rodents that completely girdles the trunk. In this case a bridge graft may be used to connect tissues receiving flow from the roots to tissues above the damage that have been severed from the flow. Where a watershoot, basal shoot or sapling of the same species is growing nearby, any of these can be grafted to the area above the damage by a method called inarch grafting. These alternatives to scions must be of the correct length to span the gap of the wound.

–Changing cultivars: To change the cultivar in a fruit orchard to a more profitable cultivar, called topworking. It may be faster to graft a new cultivar onto existing limbs of established trees than to replant an entire orchard.

–Maintain consistency: Apples are notorious for their genetic variability, even differing in multiple characteristics, such as, size, color, and flavor, of fruits located on the same tree. In the commercial farming industry, consistency is maintained by grafting a scion with desired fruit traits onto a hardy stock.


–A practice sometimes carried out by gardeners is to graft related potatoes and tomatoes so that both are produced on the same plant, one above ground and one underground.

–Cacti of widely different forms are sometimes grafted on to each other.

–Multiple cultivars of fruits such as apples are sometimes grafted on a single tree. This so-called “family tree” provides more fruit variety for small spaces such as a suburban backyard, and also takes care of the need for pollenizers. The drawback is that the gardener must be sufficiently trained to prune them correctly, or one strong variety will usually “take over”.

–Ornamental and functional, tree shaping uses grafting techniques to join separate trees or parts of the same tree to itself. Furniture, hearts, entry archways are examples.

2.  Physically Illustrating Grafting

I think the best way to demonstrate the technique of grafting and tie it into a sermon would be to use a cleft graft.

–It uses a large branch (God) for the rootstock

–Twigs are used as the scion (the broken branches from Verse 19, humans)

In this case, it is kind of a play on words — one ‘cleaves’ unto God.

To easily make a cleft graft, you need a branch with a diameter of at least 2 inches and a length that is long enough for you to hold up and have visible for the congregation.  This will be your rootstock (God).   On one end, cut into the end with a saw to make the cleft.  Choose a couple twigs to be scions.  To make it easier to stick them into the rootstock branch, you can shave them down a bit so that they can easily be wedged in.  However, do not shave them down too much or they will fall right out — not good for the demonstration!  Don’t worry about aligning the vascular tissues of the rootstock and scion as it is for demonstration purposes.  Also, the grafting wax isn’t needed.



© Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk!, 2010. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Mertie Mae Botanics LLC and Horticulture Talk! with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.


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