Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

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Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Zach Smith on Thu Sep 20, 2012 2:18 am

I first spotted this water-elm a couple of years ago. I passed it by, thinking "how will I ever get it out of those knees?" This year I saw it again, remembered that cypress wood is easily sawed, and decided to lift the tree and the "annoying" knees. Now it's putting out new shoots, so it looks like it wants to live. Next year I'll begin training it in a broom form, and I'll probably pot it in 2014.

The main trick with this planting will be to preserve the knees. They have no roots feeding them anymore, so I'll have to use a preservative of some sort if I want to keep the bark. One of them cracked so I was able to see heartwood; that means the insides won't rot. (It takes about 75 years for bald cypress to begin forming heartwood.)

Very unusual specimen, only one like it I've seen. Hopefully it'll make a nice bonsai.

Comment welcome, as always.

Zach


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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Leo Schordje on Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:08 am

Very interesting material to work with. I assume water elm grows as fast as most elms, so it should only be a decade or so to have quite a nice tree. Really neat find.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  BrianG on Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:58 am

Very cool Zach... really unique.... are you going to keep this one for yourself? I hope you put this one on your website so I get to see it's progess.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Zach Smith on Thu Sep 20, 2012 11:29 am

Yeah, it's a keeper for sure. I'll update its progress on my website. I imagine that next year I'll be able to get new leaders up to a half-inch thick.

Thanks for the kind words.

Zach

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  JimLewis on Thu Sep 20, 2012 12:42 pm

Hmmm. What does the bald cypress from which these knees were cut have to say about it? All's well in love or Bonsai?

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Zach Smith on Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:33 am

Ouch.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  BrianG on Fri Sep 21, 2012 2:35 am

JimLewis wrote:Hmmm. What does the bald cypress from which these knees were cut have to say about it? All's well in love or Bonsai?

Mr. Lewis what is ment by this statement sir?

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  John Lee on Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:59 am

Bald cyrpess will make heartwood/knees a lot sooner than 75 years, most likely heartwood in 10 and knees shortly after. While I like the water elm (elms are one of my favorites), I don't see how sawn off cyrpess knees add to the composition. In a while, the will look dead, no matter what you do to perserve them. Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Zach Smith on Fri Sep 21, 2012 11:17 am

I'll have to dig out my book on bald cypress. I don't think you can expect heartwood to form after only 10 years. The "new" beaded cypress you buy for ceilings and cabinetry is all sapwood and rots quickly if left in the weather. The old cypress beams that come out of old buildings are heartwood and will withstand the weather very well. In fact, they pull "sinkers" out of swamps and mill it for construction use. It's expensive, of course.

We'll see how the preservation effort goes. And we'll see how the composition turns out.

Thanks for the comments.

Zach

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  JimLewis on Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:20 pm

JimLewis wrote:Hmmm. What does the bald cypress from which these knees were cut have to say about it? All's well in love or Bonsai?



Mr. Lewis what is ment by this statement sir?

I kinda thought it was clear. In tree-hugger terms: Why disfigure another tree just to satisfy your need for an unusual bonsai?

Hubris?

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Zach Smith on Fri Sep 21, 2012 12:28 pm

Probably for the same reason we disfigure trees minding their own business and make them into bonsai. Or cut them down to make houses or firewood.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Poink88 on Fri Sep 21, 2012 1:57 pm

Zach Smith wrote:Probably for the same reason we disfigure trees minding their own business and make them into bonsai. Or cut them down to make houses or firewood.
Score! cheers lol!
It is amazing how some people see other people's dirt but never theirs. Though in some areas, collecting cypress knees (just like collecting trees or picking rocks) is illegal but as long as it is allowed where you took them, you should be fine.

Re: the tree, it is unique but I find it hard to see how you will incorporate the knees in the final design. Then again, I am still very poor at styling. and my "vision" is still limited.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  JimLewis on Fri Sep 21, 2012 3:22 pm

Zach Smith wrote:Probably for the same reason we disfigure trees minding their own business and make them into bonsai. Or cut them down to make houses or firewood.

Yeah, but there's a "purpose" for those. I see none here.

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Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Leo Schordje on Fri Sep 21, 2012 4:43 pm

Zack is from Louisiana, where the Bald Cypress is a very common tree of the local wetlands. And in Louisiana there is a large amount of wetlands, much on private property, not just on public lands. It would be difficult to walk a mile without seeing hundreds if not thousands of bald cypress. There are few to no restrictions for collecting them from private lands, and state forests will allow collection with permits.

Where I live, Illinois, the only wetlands with mature Bald Cypress are some 350 miles south of me along the southern border of the state. If I were collecting bald cypress in Illinois, the probability would be high that the tree would have been collected from protected preserves. Much more difficult, to get permits for collecting in state forests. Not common on private lands at all. It is an uncommon tree in the wild of Illinois. Though it does well when planted as an ornamental all through northern IL, even into the middle regions of Wisconsin.

rarity and abundance are very much dependent on location.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  rockm on Fri Sep 21, 2012 8:42 pm

I've done business with Zach for a very long time. Visited his house back in the 90's when he got started. He is an ethical collector and doesn't take things without a lot of thought.

The "purpose" of this, it's definitely better than havesting BC for paneling, furniture. window blinds or more than a few other things. No one "needs" paneling or cypress window blinds---Probably 99.99 percent of the tree these knees probably came from is still alive and standing.

FWIW, BC doesn't build up enough of the rot-resistant compound Cypressene until they're very old, like over 80 or so, according to some forest service estimates. Even 50 or 60 year old BC can develop fungal infections that rot them from the inside out. The rotted wood is pretty valuable, as the fungus is "artistic" and produces pitted, quirky "pecky cypress" wood popular for interior paneling.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Zach Smith on Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:03 am

Thanks, rockm. The thing about cypress knees is they're generally massively plentiful in the swamps. Although no one to this day knows exactly what purpose they serve, it's probably correct to say they're a "renewable" resource. The tree won't die without them. More do form over time, and they grow by adding a layer each year (you may be able to see the smooth reddish tops on mine where they've burst through the bark for this season's growth). Craftsmen collect them, remove the bark, sand them and apply clear lacquer. There's a cottage industry that sprang up about 20 years ago to carve them into Santa Claus figurines. Kitschy, but I kinda like 'em.

Anyhoo, I have an idea of how this planting should turn out. Water-elm is an understory tree in the swamps, growing to only 30 feet or so while the cypress tends to grow 80-100 feet. I plan to try and give an image of what could be a typical swamp scene, with the cypress implied. Should turn out great or awful. We'll know in three to five years, I suspect.

Zach

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  BrianG on Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:09 am

JimLewis wrote:
JimLewis wrote:Hmmm. What does the bald cypress from which these knees were cut have to say about it? All's well in love or Bonsai?



Mr. Lewis what is ment by this statement sir?

I kinda thought it was clear. In tree-hugger terms: Why disfigure another tree just to satisfy your need for an unusual bonsai?

Hubris?

You were clear, I just wanted to make sure first because I would have never thought someone from your generation would be so hypocritical. Zach wrote what I was thinking before I got to see what your responce was. There was a purpose he thought it could be an interesting compostition. Being from the one of the most respected and honorable generations here in the U.S. I would have thought you knew if you don't have something nice to say don't say it at all.

IMO I think it could be interesting composition, like root over rock style gives me the visual of a tree growing on a cliff in the mountains.. the cypress knees helps me invision the water elm growing in the swamps. Where as if in a pot on its own could give me the vision of any elm. It's just something you don't see, which to me makes it interesting. I think it's up to the artist whether he wants the viewer to see or feel a certain way or leave it to the viewer see what the tree might say to themselves. Just my two cents.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  JimLewis on Sat Sep 22, 2012 12:40 pm

I would have never thought someone from your generation would be so hypocritical.
and

Being from the one of the most respected and honorable generations here in the U.S. I would have thought you knew if you don't have something nice to say don't say it at all.

Odd comments. Re: "hypocritical" -- MY dictionaries say that means "Professing feelings or virtues one does not have." Well, I do have strong environmental "virtues" and "feelings."

My "generation" can be -- and often is -- as crabby as any other generation, and long experience often justifies it. My background -- education and career -- is in natural history and the environment. I'd think that environmental experience in this country and the world over the last 50 years or so would teach us that needless destruction -- however minor it might seem -- isn't the best way to go about things.

Maybe not.

If you have access to back issues of the ABS's Bonsai Journal, look up my "The Ethics of Collecting" from back in the 1990s.

_________________
Jim Lewis - lewisjk@windstream.net - Western NC - People, when Columbus discovered this country, it was plumb full of nuts and berries. And I'm right here to tell you the berries are just about all gone. Uncle Dave Macon, old-time country musician

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  Poink88 on Sat Sep 22, 2012 2:57 pm

Jim,

It really depends on where/how you see things. It could be right, wrong, or both at the same time. Glass half full or half empty.

Environmental impact is real and should be considered but where some collect, the fire fighters might consider it beneficial (removal of under story brush). Some advocate as well that thinning the trees help the remaining become stronger and healthier. There is a gamut of pros and cons that we should not judge unless we know the whole story and situation involved in each case.

I am with you on collecting ethics...there are many cases where plants should be left where they are.

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Re: Water-elm "root around cypress knees"

Post  BrianG on Sat Sep 22, 2012 7:07 pm

[quote="JimLewis"]
Odd comments. Re: "hypocritical" -- MY dictionaries say that means "Professing feelings or virtues one does not have." Well, I do have strong environmental "virtues" and "feelings."

My "generation" can be -- and often is -- as crabby as any other generation, and long experience often justifies it. My background -- education and career -- is in natural history and the environment. I'd think that environmental experience in this country and the world over the last 50 years or so would teach us that needless destruction -- however minor it might seem -- isn't the best way to go about things.

Maybe not.

If you have access to back issues of the ABS's Bonsai Journal, look up my "The Ethics of Collecting" from back in the 1990s.

We are talking about this post. I undestand collecting ethics, We are not takling about some newbe trying to collect a 100/200 year old mountain juniper or such. I don't see how this particular instance would be needless destruction, He cut the knees in plans to use into the composition. It didn't kill the tree it came from, so it wasn't needlessly. How is this any different than cutting a branch off a tree growing over a fence etc. I'm done with this conversation now it's becoming something off the original post. But thanks for your two cents.

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