There’s not much growing at this time of year, so I got to pondering some fascinating facts about 10 of the species I grow as bonsai. Here they are, more or less alphabetically.
Crape Myrtle, Lagerstroemia Indica – new shoots are square when they first emerge. As they extend and thicken, they round off.
Flowering Dogwood, Cornus Florida – the beautiful white flowers are not flowers at all (as in flower petals), they’re white flower bracts. The actual flowers are yellow and inconspicuous, and reside in the center of the bracts.
Elms, Ulmus Species – Tricky to prune larger roots, as the bark will separate easily. Sawing works better, however, don’t saw straight through from one side or the bark will likely peel on the other side of the cut. (Even with experience you will likely make a mistake here and there when preparing collected elms.)
Six weeks after the above photo, this American elm already has much smaller leaves. Easy stuff!
Figs, Ficus Species – Figs are technically among the flowering plants (angiosperms), so where are the flowers? Actually, the flowers are inside the fruit and never “bloom” as we understand the term. Typically a specialized wasp enters the tiny opening at the end of the fruit to pollinate it.
Willow Leaf Ficus, Ficus Salicaria – perhaps the most popular fig species grown as bonsai, it is unknown in the wild (meaning you can’t go look at mature specimens in their natural habitat). The original plant was discovered in a Florida nursery by Joe Samuels, who eventually acquired and began propagating it. If you have one, it came from this single specimen.
Holly, Ilex species – have male and female flowers on different plants. The bright red fall berries occur only on the female plants. The leaves and stems of common Yaupon, Ilex vomitoria, were brewed into a tea by Native American men for use in purification and unity rituals. These rituals included vomiting, hence the scientific name given by Europeans when they originally classified the species. Only the Yaupon tea does not actually cause vomiting. Oops.
American Hornbeam, Carpinus Caroliniana – they grow continuously throughout the growing season, never pausing as most species do. There’s always fresh new growth. This trait is almost unique among species grown as bonsai.
Wisteria, Wisteria Floribunda, is quite the bean! I know we don’t tend to think of the lovely Wisteria in such terms, but as a member of the legume family Wisteria is related to all of the beans and peas. Once the stunning flowers have done their thing each year, a pod slowly but surely develops until it’s quite obvious by fall.
This was a fun topic for me. I sure hope you enjoyed the read.