Utilizing native North American species

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Utilizing native North American species

Post  PeacefulAres on Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:04 am

In my time reading different bonsai sites, and browsing videos, it seems like there is a lack of exploration into using the trees of North America as bonsai subjects. Obviously, some are popular, like bald cypress, red maples and different junipers, but beyond that, I don't see a whole lot. Personally, I've decided that I'm going to seek out the native and perhaps, unusual and seldom species of my state, to use in this adventure. On the one hand, I'll probably be experimenting with some things that others haven't, but at the same time, I should be dealing with plants that will thrive in my area and require less maintenance. Who knows, maybe I'll get lucky.

With that said, I'd like to know your opinions on growing different NA natives as bonsai subjects. Do you have any in your collections? Are they good material? Are any of them rare, or as far as bonsai goes? What do you think?

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  John Quinn on Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:15 am

Carpinus caroliniana, American hornbeam, is an excellent species for bonsai.


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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  -keith- on Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:27 am

i agree using native species should be practiced . yes bonsai began in china and japan some 2000 years ago,but the mainstay of trees has stayed pretty much the same .i just don't understand why natives aren't used more. if we really followed the japanese traditions we would go into our backyards and wild places to find our trees not strive for other counrty's natives just because thats what we see as old beautiful bonsai.

i have 2 maples ( not positive on the species) that are a new york native that i was told have leaves that are too big and just isn't "bonsai" material. the leaves started 5 inches across and now with some work are 2 inches and smaller, the new branches start off orangeish and look nice in the spring before leaf out,the leaves are a very dark green when mature and the bark gets very fissured . i think they are great.
i also have yellow pine (never seen them as bonsai) , a weeping willow, a giant pussy willow (tufts the size of your thumb), cut leaf oaks and a native wild pear. i am also planning to bring home a couple native hemlock that i discovered last fall... it may just be i am cheap and like my hands dirty but i dig natives Laughing

beautiful tree you have there john what a great example

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  dick benbow on Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:50 am

The last coupla years i have been drifting away from but not completely, japanese trees. I've gotten into natives
because of a comment from a japanese teacher who encouraged me to do that. I have the usual in pines and junipers.

I missed out on the coolest native i did ever see, because I didn't act fast enought at our bonsai retailer. They got in an alder, used here more for firewood then anything. this was a big tree, deciduous, in the pot awhile so leaves were about half normal size. why anyone would choose this species to bonsai is beyond me, yet there it was, with years of effort on it and i was totally enamoured with it. as much as I was smittened by it , I would never try to duplicate nor would i have any knowledge on what to do with this species. I hope to see it again. I ought to ask who bought it.....


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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  drgonzo on Tue Feb 19, 2013 1:54 am

I have been working extensively with Fagus Grandifolia (truly the bad boy of the Beech family) for some years now as well as Buckthorn and Choke cherry. Our native Hawthorns are wonderful species to cultivate as well as the native larches (along with their local hybrids) and Tamaracks. I'm still experimenting with native Willows and Cotton woods, Aspens, American Elms, wild Apples, Sarvisberry (Amelanchier), white Oaks, Honeysuckles, Ostrya, Black Birches... the list goes on and on really...

In my opinion North American species offer a rich diversity and great reward for those willing to experiment and work with them. i really feel it's still a relatively new frontier yet to be fully explored with regards bonsai culture!

-Jay

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  PeacefulAres on Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:08 am

-keith- wrote:i agree using native species should be practiced . yes bonsai began in china and japan some 2000 years ago,but the mainstay of trees has stayed pretty much the same .i just don't understand why natives aren't used more. if we really followed the japanese traditions we would go into our backyards and wild places to find our trees not strive for other counrty's natives just because thats what we see as old beautiful bonsai.

i have 2 maples ( not positive on the species) that are a new york native that i was told have leaves that are too big and just isn't "bonsai" material. the leaves started 5 inches across and now with some work are 2 inches and smaller, the new branches start off orangeish and look nice in the spring before leaf out,the leaves are a very dark green when mature and the bark gets very fissured . i think they are great.
i also have yellow pine (never seen them as bonsai) , a weeping willow, a giant pussy willow (tufts the size of your thumb), cut leaf oaks and a native wild pear. i am also planning to bring home a couple native hemlock that i discovered last fall... it may just be i am cheap and like my hands dirty but i dig natives Laughing

beautiful tree you have there john what a great example

I've found several potentially interesting species to work with lately. One of them, Vaccinium myrsinites or Shiny blueberry looks like it might have some really fantastic potential. I wanted to take a picture, but unfortunately, I am unable to at the moment. Anyway, it has some positively miniscule leaves. Even the mature ones are barely more than a 1/4" long by 1/8" wide. The flowers and fruit are measured in centimeters. Even if it didn't make a great subject on it's own, I imagine it would be astounding for grafting onto other varieties of blueberry with larger leaves.

Also, the groundsel tree which grow around here have this extremely corky bark, and interestingly shaped leaves. Hopefully they will adapt well to pots.

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  LSBonsai on Tue Feb 19, 2013 2:29 am

Here is a gallery of natives I put together the other day. Nothing revolutionary but still some of the best species the NE has to offer.

http://lakeshorebonsai.wordpress.com/2013/02/16/gallery-of-some-of-my-favourite-local-trees/

Edit: just noticed you're in Florida. Oops Smile

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  augustine on Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:04 am

I have black tupelo (nyssa sylvatica), liquidamber s., American Hornbeam (caroliniana), SW White Pine (Pinus Strobiformis), wild blueberry (just collected on recommendation of my Club Pres), Pinus Virginiana, and Hackberry (Celtis Occidentalis). A bunch of my club members grow American Beech. Brent Walston highly recommends our native hackberry

None of these are specimens, most are small a few in the ground and most in training pots. We did however collect some very good Hornbeams. Also, have the more traditional species.

Also, we have white mulberry trees that are over the place. These are non-native invasive plants. Can't seem to find much info on bonsai potential or container culture. Plenty of good trunks around. Info would be appreciated.

Best to all,

Augustine
central MD 7a

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  PeacefulAres on Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:20 am

augustine wrote:I have black tupelo (nyssa sylvatica), liquidamber s., American Hornbeam (caroliniana), SW White Pine (Pinus Strobiformis), wild blueberry (just collected on recommendation of my Club Pres), Pinus Virginiana, and Hackberry (Celtis Occidentalis). A bunch of my club members grow American Beech. Brent Walston highly recommends our native hackberry

None of these are specimens, most are small a few in the ground and most in training pots. We did however collect some very good Hornbeams. Also, have the more traditional species.

Also, we have white mulberry trees that are over the place. These are non-native invasive plants. Can't seem to find much info on bonsai potential or container culture. Plenty of good trunks around. Info would be appreciated.

Best to all,

Augustine
central MD 7a

I have a red mulberry in a pot. It grows well, and the wood is pretty hard. The leaves seem like they can reduce pretty well and mulberries are basically impossible to kill, short of setting them on fire. Even then, it would probably be a 50/50 chance.

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:38 am

Peaceful,

been doing that for years down on my side. By the way try the hackberrys, I have had mine since 1981 or so and they started of as seedlings from Louisiana.

Generally, I look up into the crown for density of twiggyness. Checking to see if a tree is leaf dense or branchlet dense, and if there is anything special about the tree, be it bark, growth pattern etc.
It's a slow process, but when you get one, it is ..........................!!!!!

Have fun exploring and opening the world to new ideas.
[ Don't forget the sub-shrubs and woody weeds.]
Later.
Khaimraj

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  JimLewis on Tue Feb 19, 2013 12:59 pm

Osage Orange (Maclure pomifera)



Buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis)



Water elm (Planara aquatica)



Fetterbush



Youpon holly



Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)



Bald cypress




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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  augustine on Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:09 pm

Mr. Peaceful,

Thanks for the mulberry info. I assumed they were tough. I may dig one, found a candidate with a very good 4" trunk on a lot owned by my brother. As a matter of fact I cut down into the roots, with a sharp edged shovel, several months ago.

Best,

Augustine
central MD 7a

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  Tom Simonyi on Tue Feb 19, 2013 3:14 pm

Virginia pine, Pinus virginiana....

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  Twisted Trees on Tue Feb 19, 2013 4:39 pm

I'm totally in love with the native (or is that naturalized) Scotch Pine around my area. I'm also planning on digging up a large muti trunk Chokecherry this spring. I've also begun work on a Hawthorn growing in the yard which may come out of the ground this spring.

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  Leo Schordje on Tue Feb 19, 2013 6:31 pm

If you think about it, the Japanese developed bonsai using nearly 100% native trees, their native trees. In the USA, the tendency to use Japanese and other non-native species is largely due to the fact that we like following instructions, and especially prior to the 1980's, most instructional articles were translations of Japanese articles. So it was the availability of information that lead to the dominance of Japanese and Chinese species in the US hobby.

The 'new crop' of bonsai journeymen (gender free use of guild/trade term) returning from their apprenticeships in Japan, have almost to a person expressed an interest in developing the use of native material. Out west (Portland Bonsai Village group of artists) the emphasis in yamadori, is focused on local mountain collected yamadori, not on importing from abroad.

You are in southwest Florida. There are some wonderful native species in your area, that there will simply be no information on, because they are not wide spread species. The trick is to find them, try them, see if they work. AND TAKE NOTES, let others know the good traits and the difficult traits.

In Florida, have a really interesting mix of invasive species, which are very easy to get permission to collect because they are considered weeds, and some of your local invasives have proven bonsai track records, I'm thinkng in particular Casurina species, and Chinese pepper tree. Both are noxious weeds in the landscape.

Some species will be very slow to develop from seedlings, leaves to big etc, but if you find a collectable stump in the wild with half a century or more of growing, it may be past all the juvenile trait difficulties. Some species will work better from the young seedling stage, where you avoid other more mature issues. I would walk the weedy wild areas of either your property (if you have such) , or property of your friends and find some trees to collect. No collecting the the state and national parks please. But rail road right of ways, and other not protected areas, are fair game.

The only reason your local trees are not often seen, is an accident of how the hobby arrived here, In its pure form, bonsai was originally done only with local species.

One other thought, it came to me as when I mentioned the Portland Bonsai Village. Because the 'testing and development' phase was worked out and documented by the Japanese, there are some species that are very good to use as bonsai, and there is no reason to avoid them. For example, as a sub-tropical pine the Japanese Black Pine is hard to beat, for speed of development and it also has a number of excellent cultivars that truly are superior to a large number of sub-tropical pines. Teliperion Farms (Portland area) brings to mind the Satsuki Azalea. This species too has so many good bonsai traits and selected cultivars, that to avoid it in favor of ONLY natives would be limiting ones enjoyment of the possibilities. There are a dozen or so Japanese/Chinese species that really have proven tract records of being used as bonsai, one should try a few of them for the experience.

But I am 100% in favor of using local native species, and local invasive species - I enjoy torturing our 'dreaded buckthorn' that chokes out our prairie remnants here, and nobody minds if I kill it, as long as I don't let it go to seed. Actuall as bonsai I have not been happy with European Buckthorn. It hasn't made much of itself yet.

My newest project is a couple of our local, USA native, but not native to my area, the invasive black locust, Robinia. One year in, so far so good. Will post more when I get something that looks more than a stick in a pot.

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  PeacefulAres on Tue Feb 19, 2013 8:14 pm

Leo Schordje wrote:If you think about it, the Japanese developed bonsai using nearly 100% native trees, their native trees. In the USA, the tendency to use Japanese and other non-native species is largely due to the fact that we like following instructions, and especially prior to the 1980's, most instructional articles were translations of Japanese articles. So it was the availability of information that lead to the dominance of Japanese and Chinese species in the US hobby.

The 'new crop' of bonsai journeymen (gender free use of guild/trade term) returning from their apprenticeships in Japan, have almost to a person expressed an interest in developing the use of native material. Out west (Portland Bonsai Village group of artists) the emphasis in yamadori, is focused on local mountain collected yamadori, not on importing from abroad.

You are in southwest Florida. There are some wonderful native species in your area, that there will simply be no information on, because they are not wide spread species. The trick is to find them, try them, see if they work. AND TAKE NOTES, let others know the good traits and the difficult traits.

In Florida, have a really interesting mix of invasive species, which are very easy to get permission to collect because they are considered weeds, and some of your local invasives have proven bonsai track records, I'm thinkng in particular Casurina species, and Chinese pepper tree. Both are noxious weeds in the landscape.

Some species will be very slow to develop from seedlings, leaves to big etc, but if you find a collectable stump in the wild with half a century or more of growing, it may be past all the juvenile trait difficulties. Some species will work better from the young seedling stage, where you avoid other more mature issues. I would walk the weedy wild areas of either your property (if you have such) , or property of your friends and find some trees to collect. No collecting the the state and national parks please. But rail road right of ways, and other not protected areas, are fair game.

The only reason your local trees are not often seen, is an accident of how the hobby arrived here, In its pure form, bonsai was originally done only with local species.

One other thought, it came to me as when I mentioned the Portland Bonsai Village. Because the 'testing and development' phase was worked out and documented by the Japanese, there are some species that are very good to use as bonsai, and there is no reason to avoid them. For example, as a sub-tropical pine the Japanese Black Pine is hard to beat, for speed of development and it also has a number of excellent cultivars that truly are superior to a large number of sub-tropical pines. Teliperion Farms (Portland area) brings to mind the Satsuki Azalea. This species too has so many good bonsai traits and selected cultivars, that to avoid it in favor of ONLY natives would be limiting ones enjoyment of the possibilities. There are a dozen or so Japanese/Chinese species that really have proven tract records of being used as bonsai, one should try a few of them for the experience.

But I am 100% in favor of using local native species, and local invasive species - I enjoy torturing our 'dreaded buckthorn' that chokes out our prairie remnants here, and nobody minds if I kill it, as long as I don't let it go to seed. Actuall as bonsai I have not been happy with European Buckthorn. It hasn't made much of itself yet.

My newest project is a couple of our local, USA native, but not native to my area, the invasive black locust, Robinia. One year in, so far so good. Will post more when I get something that looks more than a stick in a pot.

This was a very nice post, Leo. I've been working on collecting a lot of mulberries, hackberries, Virginia creeper and one of the Chinese peppers you've mentioned. I'm also working on tons of cuttings from elms, and both red and sugar maples, as well as some red maple seeds. A big plus I have noticed about most of these species is that they are explosive and continuous growers, without necessarily having the massive leaves often associated with such growth habits. Even in full sun, they don't hint at wilting, and they don't mind a heavy watering.

My new goal for collecting is find some big, old saltbush/groundsel trees. I'm so enamored with the one I collected recently that I just want to get my hands on some more. And I've also been considering going around the local industrial park and seeing if I could get permission to remove some of the old, scrubby trees that line these areas. You see a lot of big grape vines clinging to the fences that have been there 20-30 years. There are also back lots and empty fields that nobody really does anything with. They look like they would be prime real estate for prebonsai.




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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  augustine on Tue Feb 19, 2013 10:11 pm

I forgot that I also have:

VA Creeper - hit a snag. In 2011 I dug a couple of trunks that were without foliage thinking they would surely grow. They did grow but from under the soil level not on the exposed trunk themselves. Have to see what will happen with more time. I like the leaves and growth habits (they are vines), very beautiful cascading.

Oriental Bittersweet (another non-native invasive) - dug a pretty twisted trunk which would make a nice shohin. We'll see what happens.

Hedera helix or wild ivy - I realize this is a tall order but I found a very interesting trunk and plant is growing well. Had it for several years.

For Tom S. - I also like Virginia pines. Have 2 in training pots. I put several little guys in the ground because they were going to get removed during the community park clean up. If they thrive I have an area in which they can be planted. The Virginia pines in my area have beautiful foliage, twisted, good color and relatively short as well as beautiful mature bark.

Well... looks like we're on our way!


Best,

Augustine
central MD 7a

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  lackhand on Wed Feb 20, 2013 3:47 am

I'm all for using local species too, and if we all do it, there should be some really interesting bonsai coming out of the US in a couple of years. Here in Phoenix, I've been eyeing the palo verde and wondering if I could do something with it, and from where I grew up in Colorado, I have fond memories of huge, rugged old sage brush that I think would make interesting bonsai.

Regarding the Casuarina that are invasive in Florida, the Aussies have a lot of good things to say about them as bonsai. Here is one example of what can be done in about a year. You'll have to join to see the pics, but it's worth it, I'm thinking about getting one myself since they will grow here.

I also agree with the idea that we should not completely avoid working with the traditional trees. There is so much good info about how to work with Japanese Black Pine or Chinese Elm (and so many more), it's almost mandatory to have a few just to learn on.

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  Khaimraj Seepersad on Wed Feb 20, 2013 9:58 am

Trouble with new species, is where do you go.

You can observe the tree/shrub in nature, say several different locations, tell yourself take a chance. How do you start?

I will normally take a sapling and grow for 3 to 5 years just to learn what to do as health goes, response to pruning and so on.
BUT this is because I have had the experience of growing a Chinese elm or Fukien tea, or Serissa s., without the experience of doing that and the stuff that was written, I would have to re-invent the wheel.

Most don't get into bonsai to explore, most just want to show [off].

I have done this about 5 times and probably have enough energy to do this about 25 more times and hopefully others will take over or at least try to find new material.
That said, I still enjoy growing the well known stuff.
Later.
Khaimraj

* AND I try not to Japanese everything - ha ha ha

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Re: Utilizing native North American species

Post  JimLewis on Wed Feb 20, 2013 1:20 pm

Hedera helix or wild ivy - I realize this is a tall order but I found a very interesting trunk and plant is growing well. Had it for several years.

This is not native to N. America, although it seems it is in some locations. It's existence "in the wild" in this country usually marks the site of an old homestead and often is the ONLY evidence that someone once lived around there.

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