This is a clients tree, chloroluceun tortum, the Brazilian raintree.

It’s a humble little tree really. But she likes it. And that’s all that matters.

It had a Jin on it, but this is all that’s left of the deadwood. The unfortunate thing about having smaller trees is the impermanence of deadwood features that are intricately detailed. Exposed wood and hollows (Shari and uro, in Japanese) on the trunks work, but anything projecting and convoluted tends to rot fast. The reason being is it’s the heartwood, the middle of a trunk or branch, that has the oils and resins that resist decay, and on smaller trees, there’s mostly sapwood. Ah well, c’est la vie, we can enjoy them while we have them.

Looking at the trunk, you’ll notice that it’s beat up just a bit. Like someone’s been whacking it with a chain. That’s funny, I just had a vision. Let me paint a picture: Before you we have Nutz T. Squirrel, red dew rag tied on his head, a septum piercing in his nose. Black leather jacket with his motorcycle gang emblem “Tree Ratz Scooter Club” stretching across the back, and the usual FTF and The Shocker arm patches on his shoulder. Nutz is standing before the raintree, lazily swinging a chain, crooked smirk on his face. He has some anger issues and my clients poor tree is before him. And Nutz, our biker bad boy squirrel, has a chain.

In reality, Nutz likes to chew on things. It’s an instinctual imperative because if he doesn’t, his teeth will grow so long, they’ll pierce his brain and then instinct won’t be a thing anymore. Squirrels love our trees, the new buds are sweet morsels, the bark helps to grind down the continuous tooth growth, not to mention the flowers, fruits, etc. that they love.

But there is one thing they don’t love, one thing that will chase Nutz and his gang away: cayenne pepper.

Sprinkle some of that on the soil surface and up the trunk and those squirrel biker thugs won’t bother your trees anymore.

Unless, that is, they’re from Louisiana. There’s nothing that chases away the Louisiana chapter of the Tree Ratz. Sorry. The only thing you can do at that point is to pour them a glass of wine, because, as Justin Wilson always says, “A meal without wine is like a day without sunshine”

Ok, I’ve been talking to trees way too much today. But you all have this question on your mind: “What is this raintree telling me?”

Those in the temperate regions of the world might be able to guess. It’s exhibiting signs of senescence (for a really long explanation of senescence, visit this blog post)

Senescence is a little like what’s happening with smartphones nowadays, planned obsolescence. They even kinda rhyme:

“My leaves are turning brown

Like it’s planned obsolescence

But it’s really just a process called

Leaf senescence

Like an iPhone six

with a battery going dead

The leaves on my maple

Go from green to red”

In the case of a raintree, they turn yellow. But fear not my friends, this is an entirely natural process of renewal, new growth, getting rid of the old and tired to make way for new, verdant leaves.

And behold! There they are!

The tree, our mighty chloroleucon tortum, has a hard time dropping old leaves to make way for new ones (kinda like the way the Bonsai crowd is so conservative in their adoption of new science. I mean, a drainage layer? Ever hear of the science of fluid mechanics?).

I love the new growth on a BRT. It’s so cute.

So what do we do to help the tree along? Easy peasy, lemon squeezy, get out some sharp and pointy scissors and cut off the old leaves.

By doing this, you advance the growth cycle by at least two weeks, and sometimes even more.

This raintree is a different one and was defoliated and wired mid-winter (December or so in Florida).

Looks good now, right?

But, and this is a big but (and I like big buts, because I cannot lie, the practice of horticulture is an art, and what works for you could be different than for I), I am in Florida, my trees are outside (with all that means in winter in Florida, freezing temps at night to possible 85f in the day), my experience and care may be better (or worse) than yours, and the trees I’m working on are healthy. That’s the most important thing: they are healthy. You may see me defoliate trees often, but they all get chances to grow unhindered afterwards. I don’t believe in keeping a tree manicured as though for show (especially one in heavy training). The only way they get energy is to grow and collect the suns rays and make sugar through the process of photosynthesis.

And you know how healthy the tree is by how quickly they respond to practices like this one, or to a repot, or a hard prune, etc.

Here’s the tree (the cayenne pepper one) two weeks later.

I think it worked. ‘Nuff Said. Follow that link above.

I think the next post I might visit some sugarberries, or maybe a hornbeam. Or both. How’s that sound?

7 thoughts

  1. Love the tip about the hot pepper to keep them from gnawing. Plenty of screwy squirrels here in NW OHIO. Any tips to fool them into thinking that bonsai soil isn’t a good place to bury their nutz?

    Do you have an after picture of the “humble and well loved” BRT? Looks like you wired it, and I’m always looking for ideas. I have one in the “I need to grow some before you mess with me” stage, and am always interested in your take on BRT styling


  2. Is there a simple calculation between the diameter of a tree’s trunk and the gallons of a plastic nursery pot that it should be put in if you are just growing it out? Anything I can find online about pot sizing is for bonsai pots.


    1. Put the tree in the next size up pot successively. If it’s in a gallon it then goes into a 3 gallon, a 3 into a 7 etc. don’t over pot it or the tree will stay too wet.
      It’s more about the root mass than the trunk caliper


      1. I guess I should have said this, but these will be collected trees. In terms of root mass, then, especially considering that collecting will remove a lot of roots?


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