It’s been two years, at least, since I collected this tree. That should be enough time for it to have gained strength. I’m still not going to be too rough on it though.
It was tough to identify this one but after an exhaustive Google search, I believe it is a blackjack oak (quercus marilandica). Although it’s leaves resemble a chapman oak (quercus chapmanii)…
I also thought about myrtle oak (q. myrtifolia) but it grows in dry areas and has a smooth bark. So with all that said, I’ll call it a blackjack oak. If a real arborist out there thinks differently, please comment.
It’s a “red oak” native to not only Florida, but of most of the south east of the US from Long Island to Florida and from Nebraska down to Texas.
I’m not sure of the front yet but that’s on the agenda today as well as to put it in a wider pot, with a little better soil, carve the chopped top, and set the branches with wire. It may seem odd to do all that now in November, on a deciduous tree (the blackjack sometimes will keep its leaves through the winter here, but it is technically dormant in the winter) but, from the pioneering work of Erik Wigert, we have learned that it’s possible to collect (and therefore, repot) oaks at this time, in Florida. The belief is that, since winter is so dry and Florida trees’ roots (especially live oaks, which had been hard to collect because of the long tap roots) continue to grow through the winter and therefore end up being so far from the trunk, it’s best to collect the trees just as they go dormant and those feeder roots are close in to the trunk. We could be wrong about why, but his and my success rates are close to 100% when we collect in November, in Florida.
With that said, first up, the roots.
Out of the pot. I’m not seeing too many roots. This tree is supposed to thrive in poor soils so maybe it doesn’t need many? It’s never wilted so maybe it’s stayed too wet and a tree doesn’t need too many roots when the water is close and easily available.
That root spread and the slant are why I collected the tree. And that bark! Always look for something interesting or unique when digging up a tree from the wild. If you just want a tree and all you see are straight trunks, try harder or go home. It’s not worth the trouble digging a tree up for a straight trunk, really. It’s easier to just buy a landscape tree at that point and chop the trunk. Trust me.
The glamorous, high end pot that my blackjack will call home for the next few years is the one on the right.
It’s subtle things that one must look for. Like the brown edges and yellowing of the leaf veins.
To expand on the “why” a tree may drop its leaves in autumn, briefly: a tree makes energy through photosynthesis using the green chlorophyll in its leaves. Some trees have adapted to the low light conditions in the winter by going dormant (not freezing has a part to play as well, we will get to that). Because chlorophyll takes energy to make, a tree will pull that chlorophyll back in and reuse it next year (that is an extremely simplified explanation).
Now, it is lack of light that triggers dormancy, not temperature. But, it is temperature that triggers dormancy break. Applying that seeming dichotomy to Florida, native trees can handle the extended growing season and the fluctuating temps in the winter, I believe, because they, one, have a summer dormancy (it’s not uncommon to see bright red leaves on acer rubrum or orange needles on taxodium distichum in July/August) and two, the sheer amount of sunlight available to them to make energy. Non native trees can’t handle going dormant twice a year, they just don’t have the capacity to make enough energy (think: acer palmatumn or acer ginnala or larix laricina) and they wither and die after two or three years. Many people think it’s the heat that kill those northern plants, or maybe fungus (which might play a role) but it’s really the lack of winter dormancy (so, indirectly, it is heat. But not our summertime heat, which rarely gets above 95, but the wintertime lack of cold stimulating early growth). I was just actually having a discussion on zelkova with Ryan Bell of japanesebonsaipots.net and he thinks I can grow them here. All the old timers in Florida say “You can’t grow that fuckin’ tree here, don’t waste your time”. He says that they’re grown in Taiwan, which has a similar climate to me and therefore I should be able to. He gave me a test. He asked, “which one is Orlando and which is Taipei?”
I told him to send me a zelkova to experiment with. We will see.
Anyway, back to the blackjack, Mack! This is new growth.
Anchoring the wire is key. When wrapping it, always hold the wire firmly.
Branch to branch wiring
At the end of the wire, the final twist should be underneath.
This allows you, when placing the wire, to bend the branch tips up. This mimics the natural tendency of branches, growing up towards the light.
When ending big wire and continuing new wire, it’s a better anchor to twist the skinnier wire around the thicker wire.
First, twist the heavy wire’s end with Jin pliers.
When going from primary to secondary branches, I always use the staple, or “U” method of wrapping the wires going in opposite directions when anchoring from branch to branch.
To confusticate the intermediates out there, here’s an example of when you should cross wires. We have a dilemma here.
Around the underneath, the anchor is strong. The only real reason that you want to avoid crossing is because it’s ugly. Like my dirty hands. Or because when you cross, you sometimes don’t get a good anchor.
Now it’s time to place the branches.
When bending, always use two hands and support the bend.
The chop needs just a touch of carving.
Not much, just enough to make it natural. I might extend it down the trunk but that’s getting boring. I’ll wait and see what happens. The tree will tell me what to do.
Right now it’s saying, “Stick a fork in me, I’m done!”
And the front.
I give it just a little fertilizer, just a light sprinkling like pepper on eggs really. And I’ll keep it in the shade for a few weeks. Then partial sun. I wholly expect it to push new growth and that should be ok because there are some years we can have a hurricane in November and that means both partial defoliation and even root damage from the high winds. Just about what I did today. You can call me Hurricane Adam.
Anyway, the next post might just be a blog on making soup. It’s that time of year and cool nights call for a nice hot pot of soup. And it seems that the blogs that make money and get the most reads are foodie blogs. And the family could use the money. Adam’s Art and Hummus? Has a ring to it, don’t you think?
But of course that means I’ll need to clean my stovetop. Damn. I’d rather wire a tree.