The Largest, Public, Tropical Bonsai Collection in North America, part one

Here we go! 

This is my first visit to the Jim Smith exhibit at Heathcote Gardens down in Ft Pierce Fl. This post will be mostly pics (huge collective sigh from the audience). I will add some pithy or enlightened comments here or there. Also, some people ask why I usually put the description of the photos before the pic instead of underneath. Because this is a blog and you scroll down from top to bottom. 

Like this: the first tree is a ficus benjamina (weeping fig), much reviled amongst many bonsai enthusiasts. 

This one, however, is a definite argument for their inclusion in the echelon of bonsai suitable subjects. 

As you see, I tend to surround the photo with text. I’m am also going to, for the first time, not put full size pics up. There are over 140 pics to follow, do the math, the post will be a huge data hog otherwise. And I’m splitting the post into two parts. As to that, onward!

Texas ebony. Used to be called pithecellobium flexicaule, the modern name is ebanopsis ebano. 


Ficus microcarpa “retusa” 

This is a sweet tree, very reminiscent of a real banyan tree. 

That’s some real Swiss Family Robinson mojo going on there. 

Ficus salicaria, willow leaf fig 

There will be many of these trees. Jim didn’t introduce the species to bonsai but he sure did set the bar high as far as specimens are concerned. 

You’ll notice the name tags on some say salicifolia or nerifolia. This one says salicania for some reason. Probably a typo. 

Another willow leaf. 

And again. 

Breaking it up, ficus natelensis, natal fig. 

Jim liked his ficus (figs are ficus are figs) 

A tall retusa. 

Here’s a bougainvillea. 

Compared to the big chunky trees so far, it’s kinda a lyrical cascade. 

Here’s a ficus microcarpa “green island”. 

Notice the rounded leaves and the singular trunk. 

The next tree is too often confused with the green island. It’s ficus microcarpa “green mound”. 

It has a more pointy leaf and the trunk is made up of multiple aerial roots. 

The next tree is one of the best trees here. 

A portulacaria afra, dwarf or small leafed Jade. It was begun as a cutting in 1962. 

My hand for scale. 

My hand is bigger than most people’s faces. 

The next tree is a Florida native. Simpson stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans, it used to a eugenia but they’ve renamed it, ignore the nameplate) 

I’d like to have a good specimen of this tree. They call it stopper because if you drink a tea of its leaves whilst suffering from loose stools, it will stop them. 

An infographic. In case you needed to know. 

Another dwarf Jade. 

Willow leaf. 

A biiiig salicaria. With Seth. 

Seth Nelson is the curator at the collection. I know what you’re thinking, most of the trees are older than him. He was born in 1992. But that’s the way it should be. Bonsai should be passed on and shared with generations. 

Anyway, Seth is looking very pirate-ish with those short pants. What do you think? 

Arrrrrrrrrrrr, matey! Yer scurvy dog! 

Sorry Seth.

 Next tree is, you guessed it, a willow leaf. 

And again. 

That one has no soil. Really. 

And another. 

Both of those above were grown from sawn off root balls. Go here to read about how that works. 

The next tree is a donation from a friend, Joe Winkler, in memorium for his lost girlfriend. 

The next tree is a guest tree it seems. 

What that means is that it was donated to the collection by someone other than Jim. As was the next one, donated by members of the garden and the Turner’s of Old Florida Bonsai. 

Next is a unique tree, a baobob. 

Which answers that perennial question, can they be made into bonsai? 

Next we have two different hackberries in the same pot. 

You can barely tell but the left one I’d celtis occidentalis and the right is c. lavægata. 

Two more willow leaf 

Seth like to poke his fingers into holes. 

Next is a ficus microcarpa that the Taiwanese call something like “kinman”. When Jim Smith first heard it he though he heard “kingman”. So that’s what Floridians called it for many years. I’ve seen where people call it “Kidman” or “kenman”. 

The problem is that we are trying to phoenetically transcribe a Chinese word into English. For example: is it Mao Tse Tung or Mao Zedong? Seth takes it personally when he sees it spelled differently than he wants. 

Next is a green island ficus. 

I like the height of this one. Most of them are short dumpy things. 

A nea buxifolia, probably one of the first in Florida from Puerto Rico. 

A Surinam cherry. With fruit! 

Two more salicarias

I like the next one, bursera simaruba, the gumbo limbo tree. 

 

You can tell that Jim really liked the willow leaf. Here’s another root clump. 

And another. 

They all have their own characters. 

Next is a green mound. 

The next is an enigma, wrapped in a puzzle, hidden in a maze. 


Jim Smith called it ficus exotica because he couldn’t find a name for it. But there isn’t a “ficus exotica” that exists except as a variety of ficus Benjamina. And this isn’t it. If you can figure it out, I’ll give you a wooden nickel. 

Now we have….yup, two more willow leaf. 

A buttonwood. 

A willow leaf. 

And a cultivar of willowleaf that Jim called “89”It has a larger leaf than regular salicaria. It’s a sport that occurred after the historic freezes of, you guessed it, 1989, when it froze in Miami. 
Buttonwood

Ficus religiosa, the fabled Bo tree, under which the Buddha, Siddhartha, found nirvana. Not this one specifically. But one like it. 

Another salicaria. 
A portulacaria cascade. Notice the weak lower branch. They don’t like to be cascades. 

A bougie just starting to bloom. 

And again, ignore the tag, a green mound ficus. 
This is a natal fig. It was recently repotted. 

This willow leaf has no soil at all. 
I’m very familiar with this bougie. 

It was once part of the Epcot display. One day a gust of wind blew it out of its pot. I had to go in and repot it. There were several broken branches that I took home and rooted. I still have them. 

Guess this one?

A buttonwood. 
This next one is pretty famous. 

It was featured on the front cover of the book Bonsai Masterclass by Craig Coussins. 

The next tree is a wrightia religiosa, they call it the water jasmine. 

It’s flowers are very fragrant and they point down, so the only way to view them is in the reflection in a pool of water. 

This is another nice microcarpa. 


And the next tree is a…..

Whoops. It would be a tabebuia tree but it’s currently on display at Epcot. 


 I will write about that display soon. 
Ok, that seems like a good place to end the first part of this post. Part two coming soon! 

About adamaskwhy

Visual artist specializing in bonsai, mostly.
This entry was posted in goings, pictures, rare finds and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to The Largest, Public, Tropical Bonsai Collection in North America, part one

  1. Tony DeWald says:

    This is amazing.
    Soilless bonsai seems like such a good idea. But how?

    • adamaskwhy says:

      The ficus salicarias were on slabs or rocks originally and they just grew over the containers. I’m not really sure how they survive but remember, they’re ficus. They can live in the tops of trees and will throw roots down to the ground (strangler figs) and it could take years and years. Very powerful trees

  2. James Shearer says:

    Good job. I was able to enjoy many of those trees at Durastone and at his home many years ago. I bet you are saving his Brazilian Rain Tree (and its story) for last.

  3. Dustin Mann says:

    Awesome post and tree and your comments cool. ..I just wonder why these people visiting Bo Religosia tree keep looking looking for Kurt Colban….and I don’t have a gun!

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