So here we have a bald cypress that I collected last year.

I would normally not collect something this small. Or if I did I would let it grow for 4 or five years before I did anything.
This little tree (they don’t all have to be gigantic you know. All you size queens out there, I mean, jeez, are you trying to compensate for something?) has one nice feature that automatically gives it age.

This shari (shari is the Japanese work for “section of trunk missing bark”) was what I liked about this little tree. It is incredible and old deadwood. Where I collected this tree was in a dry retention pond ( I know. Oxymoron. But that’s civil engineering jargon for you) and it survived a drought we had about 6 years ago.
A bit about taxodium distichum. It is a deciduous conifer. Which means it’s seeds are carried in a cone-like vessel (think of a pine cone. But the cypress is more roundy), hence we have “conifer”. And in the winter all the foliage drops like a maple or oak tree. Deciduous. This is also why it’s called a “bald” cypress. The theory of why there are such a things as deciduous conifers (like dawn redwoods, cypress,etc) is interesting. It’s believed that these types of trees evolved when the continents were in different places than they are now.
In an area that had several months of darkness (like those lands inside the arctic circle; Alaska, Siberia etc) and, as we may then extrapolate, no sun, no photosynthesis, and no need for leaves.
Most people, when they think “bald cypress”, picture a swamp. The interesting thing is that seeds won’t germinate in water. They need to be above water but need a lot of moisture. So picture the seeds falling in the water and floating down the swamp. Perhaps there is a flood and the seed gets moved out into a dryer area. This is where the seeds germinate. Therefore, besides the clear cutting of land for housing, it is the flood control measures that are in place in populated areas that are causing cypress to become scarce in Florida.
Bald cypress is also one of the only conifers that will bud back even if you chop the trunk to a stump. Try that with a Japanese Black Pine. Oh yeah! I went there.
Enough learnin’
Back to the tree

This is the right

The left

And the rear
Lots of straightness there.

I’m going to trim most of these twigs. Especially the lower ones. A mature cypress tends to shed the lower branches and form a flat top when mature. I’m going to try for a style close to that. Not quite literati or bunjin and somewhat of a flat top.
I picture this tree having been bent over by a hurricane raging through the swamp. The shari is testament to the abuse it suffered but since then it had grown back and gotten old.

This feature is nice but, in this style I’m shooting for, will actually be a detriment. So….

So off it goes. (To be honest, I actually accidentally broke it off. I think the result is serendipitous.)

These branches should be easy to bend.

They just need some “massaging”. Which means pre-bending it to soften the branch.
The trunk is another matter though. I’ll have to resort to some specialized techniques to assure I don’t snap it.

This is a bucket of raffia.
I shall need to bind the tree methinks.
Watch this YouTube video of my friend Paul (here) on applying raffia.
Are you back? Good.
Making sure that there aren’t any gaps, bind the wet raffia around the branch/trunk that needs bending.
The raffia will keep the bark from breaking. It’s a physics thing. It works.
Peter Tea’s master uses a type of grafting tape. Pedro Morales uses a type of foam tape. You don’t have to use raffia, you can probably use duct tape if you want. The principle is this. The outside of a bend has tension. If you put something on the top of the bark, it (the bark) will now be compressed. The compression holds the bark together.
Like I said, it works.

I like the look of the raffia. It makes the trunk look like Donatello’s quarter staff. Cowabunga!

Some heavy wire. Hey look, it’s Dave

I’m not sure what gauge but its the biggest I have. Stiff as hell too.

Looks like Dave has had some practice holding wood like that before.

First bend. That’s Francis in the background. Checking his stock prices I guess.
The trick in bending is to make the bends in 3 dimensions.
I did the sharp 90 degree bend first. Then I bent it forward

(Looking at the right)
And then bent it back

The red arrow was the first bend back and the green arrow shows the next bend.
As I have said in the past, it is very hard to see a 3 dimensional tree in a flat photo. This is why it is so important to go and see trees in person. The Internet and books are a good resources for learning but there is no substitute for hands-on experience.

This photo perfectly shows how its very hard to see depth. If you saw this and tried it yourself you would bend it left, then right and left again.
Go see trees, join a club, go to conventions and shows.
So some views

This is the right.

The left.

The rear

And the front.

20130113-112510.jpg review: the before.
Since I had just collected this last year I will let it stay in this pot for another year or so. Here in Florida we tend to repot in January. Which is winter, when the tree is dormant.
This is how I see this tree in the future.

Sorry, I had some fun there. I even added some Spanish moss.
I’ll update you on the progression.

9 thoughts

    1. Thanks Bob. It’s actually an inside joke about one of the club members in the Central Florida Bonsai Club. He is a bit rough sometimes but he is an older member with lots of years behind him.
      The working title was “bending large branches”


  1. That tree looks like a sapling! It’s incredible that it could be that many years old already. I I have been trying to identify a larger tree growing on a property close to my house. Its bark and trunk resemble and eastern red cedar. However the branches and overall profile look very much like a larch. The thing that baffles me is that it is also a deciduous tree. It loses its soft needles every fall. I have looked in my field guide to I.d. it…….but nothing looks exactly like it! BTW, I live in central west Michigan. Near Grand Rapids. Any help identifying this tree?


    1. It could be a larch, they are deciduous. The dawn redwood looks similar. And cypress can live in Michigan. It just gets too cold for reproduction. The seedlings can’t make it past the winter.
      There are stands of cypress in the Everglades that aren’t more than 6-10 feet tall but are 100’s of years old. They grow on top of a hard pan and are naturally dwarfed.


  2. enjoyed the post and the way u presented it.. 🙂 seeing from India (kolkata to be precise..I saw cannon ball tree right near my home fr the firsttime in jmy life!!!!!do u know abt it?and a Hoopoe bird too 🙂 Babita Kochar


  3. Hey Adam, Adam here.

    I wonder if you could tell me about how long after a chop will it take a typical BC to bud? I found a potted BC at a nursery, about 12′ tall with a great trunk. It’s almost 10″ around and was severely root-bound. I chopped the top and cut the roots down last week. I have it in a tub filled with water, and I potted it in MVP turface. Also, I fertilized with a 10-10-10. Am I looking at two weeks or a month? Any advice would be great. Still going back through your blog and gleaning lots of info. Thanks!


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