Wednesday, September 17, 2008


This is less a news post, and more a call for information.

So typically, the most common maples we see as bonsai are Japanese maples and Trident maples. But there is a wealth (over 160 species in the genus) of different maples that could be used. While some might be unsuited for smaller sized bonsai, due to a lack of leave reduction and long internode size, almost any maple has the qualities needed to thrive in bonsai cultivation (tolerance to root pruning, quick healing, etc). But traditionally we focus on two species of maple, to the near complete exclusion of so many other interesting and potentially beautiful choices.

I've been working a bit with my own local maple species as bonsai. And while none of these have been in cultivation long enough for them to warrent anything other than the name 'prebonsai material,' I am looking foreward to the next few years working with them.

So what's my call for information?

I'm looking for people who have worked with non traditional maple as bonsai stock. I'd like to hear your opinions on them, your experiences with lead reduction, root pruning, or any other observations you have with a particular species. I'd be interested to know what prompted you to give it a try in the first place. Was it simply cheap local material to practice on? A beautiful yamadori you couldn't resist? Recommendation? I'd also like to see pictures of any you've been working on, in any stages of development.

Now, the why.

I'm working on compiling a list of the nontraditional maples that could be used in bonsai cultivation. I would like to include more information than what is available to me in books and the internet. I can include my own experiences with my own local species, but so many of them I do not have personal access to. It means that while I might be able to make cultivation notes from research, I wouldn't actually know that (insert x species here) has long internodes, making it difficult for small bonsai cultivation, but it can tolerate radical root pruning, or that (insert y species here) has leaves that while they seem unreasonably large in the wild, reduce drastically for good use in even shohin bonsai.

That kind of personal experience is what I'm searching for. Eventually, I would like to put up the list on my website, Kitsune Bonsai, if I can get all of the information I need. Contributors, whether of useable information or photographs, will be included. I recognize that I simply cannot experience every species of maple on my own, not even in the next ten years.

Drop me a line here, or at the website if you have worked with any nontraditional maples you would like to share with others who might be hesitant to try experimenting with their own local maple species. Even if it's "I had trouble with this one," that's a help!

I feel like local native trees are all too often over looked in bonsai, in favor of published, more well known "traditional" trees. I enjoy working with traditional subjects, but it is also a huge boon, and even an adventure, to discover and experiment with local species to find what works and what might not. The eventual plan is to detail all of those local species, but of course I have to go and start with the most difficult!


Chris said...

Great idea and good luck!
I have been working a couple of shohin maples, the variety of which I am uncertain. They were shipped to me as tridents, but appear more like a sugar maple (although close, but no cigar).

I will get a couple of photos and send them to you. They seem to react much like Japanese maples in their growth habits.

Andy"Stone Monkey" Pearson said...

Hi HEather

Here in the UK we have a native maple, Acer campestre The Field Maple. It is very much suited for Bonsai and I have two myself. I will get my act together and email you some pictres and information. As for cultivation they respond very well, as do Jap Maples.

Good lck with gathering your info I will look forward to reading it when published

Kindest regards


Heather Hartman said...

Thanks to both of you! I'm looking foreward to the pictures. Andy, I know that Walter Pall also works with Field maples, and has some really nice trees in that species. I'm glad to hear other people working with them too! Chris, maybe we can figure out what species you have there.

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,
Arthur Joura, the Bonsai curator at the North Carolina Arboretum has been using our native red maples for some time now. They will reduce about the same as tridents.


Heather Hartman said...

Thanks for the input Dave. Do you know the actual species you have there? Though there might be some introduced species, it looks like Acer rubrum, in a number of different variations, is the main local red species. That sound right? Since I don't live there, my research is limited to field guides and the internet!

Anonymous said...

Hi Heather,
Thats correct, Acer Rubrum, The leaves vary from tree to tree, so it's possible to find a tree with smaller leaves to start with.