Again, here I sit, waiting for the kids to be released from prison… uh, school. People ask me why I work on my bonsai so much here. I guess I could just take a nap or read a book but, I’m a bonsai guy. Plus I baffle the other parents and get strange looks. That’s worth it, if for no other reason.

The tree today is a Brazilian Raintree. I had been calling it the “Friendship BRT” but since I put it into that pot I added the “cracked-pot” descriptor to it, for the obvious literal meaning and because of its history and what has happened since.

Here’s its history, in reverse order (latest to earliest).

You can see its last appearance if you click here, the one before it was here, and before that was here. There are some good progressions of some of my best trees in there. It’s amazing that today’s tree started off like this:

After the styling it ended up here:

But, when we last saw it, it was like this:

What’s it gonna end up like? You’ll have to wait until, uh…the end, I guess…..

The famous PT Loser. I just realized this was the first model year of the car. It really seems like it. They should come up with a measurement of age the same way they do for dogs. After 18 years of existence, a human is just beginning. A car, especially a Chrysler, is ending (and probably should have been crushed for scrap 3 years previously).

I could list its ailments but then I’d just ruin your day. I really do need to take it out behind the barn and put it down (right after I get full insurance coverage on it, that is…shhhhh).

I bought it cheap but I’ve had to keep up a running list of repairs and pay for them. My uncle says you pay for a car whether it’s new or not, either monthly finance charges or (it seems like it for this car) monthly repairs.

Anyway, let’s turn our attention to our tree today. It seems as though it’s weathered some of my recent life-storms with grace and strength.

It’s alive and growing at least.

This is some of the dieback from about a weeks neglect that happened at the end of June and the beginning of July. If you’re on Facebook, you’ll understand about the neglect. All I have to say about that episode is that there are several people who should be grateful that I’m not the suing type, or maybe they counted on that, when they chose to libel me. In public, in writing (even though many of those people have since removed their comments. I’ll tell you what guys, Facebook is forever, if a subpoena were gotten, Facebook is glad to bring all those nasty things that were said into court, even private messages. I don’t even need all the screenshots I took, all that, even the edits with the misspellings and miserable grammar and more, is sitting on a server located at 1 Hacker Way, Menlo Park CA).

But I’m not the suing type. I do have several friends who are (their names were mentioned in the secret documents no one in the public got to see) They were waiting for there names to be mentioned but, for some miraculous reason, they were never mentioned. Makes you go “hmmmmmmnnn?

So I’m left with a sullied reputation, several thousand dollars in actual lost income (which I use to feed my family, literally) an untold amount in potential income, and several damaged trees. That hurts the most, the trees. I can always go work at McDonald’s, but I can’t bring back a unique specimen bonsai that I’ve been growing for ten years.

My friend, Sergio, from Argentina, said it best:

“They love the blood more than the trees”

I could go on, I was going to write a post on it, with real evidence, quotes, screenshots, 27 8×10 color glossy photographs with circles and arrows and a paragraph on the back to describe what each one is…….I was going to list it all, get it all out there…..but then I just had an epiphany, an “ahhh” moment, when I read and re-read what Sergio said, and I’m letting it all go.

The trees matter more than the blood. I don’t need it, I don’t need to see them destroyed, or an organization ruined, just for me to get back at them. I have too many trees to style and work on, and blogposts to write, too many YouTube ideas to film and produce. I have books to write. And a family to love.

The trees matter more than the blood.

With that, let’s get back to the tree. That’s a significant branch to die. But I’m not worried. A Brazilian Raintree comes from an area called a restinga, on the east coast of Brazil, which is characterized as marginal, with poor, acidic soil, long spans of time when it is in drought (winter) and, in the most famous restinga, has army guys tramping through it with their machetes and axes.

The BRT is considered a deciduous tree, though in Florida and in most bonsai cultivation it is not known for leaf drop. Unless, of course, you let it dry out.

Like what happened here.

I know, you may judge me harshly if you wish. I can take it.

I’ve had this question often: “what’s happening to my bark?!”That’s just the tree’s trunk growing and expanding and the bark is “exfoliating”. Kinda like how all those Hollywood stars are able to stay so fresh faced, they scrape off the old layer and expose the new…..It only lasts so long and then the wrinkles come back.

What else occurred in my negligence, the wire cut in really badly. I’ll deal with that in a minute. First, a defoliation.

And an observation on the morphology of the leaf structure.

First, the leaf is called a compound leaf, meaning that the leaf is made up of an elongated petiole with smaller leaflets on ancillary petioles. In this pic, the whole leaf goes from the top of my thumb to the tip of my middle finger, where it attaches the the branch and the thorns are located.

What I’ve been noticing, in my defoliation work, is that little black dot right in the middle of my finger, in the pic below. To me, it looks like a stomata or gland, upon close inspection, It intrigued me, so I’ve been defoliating and leaving the petiole intact above that gland, much as I would with a buttonwood leaf.

I had hypothesized that it could be a new growth tip, but I never got a new bud from it.

Then, on the Facebook community “The Brazilian Raintree (Chloroleucon tortum) Study Group”, a member, Pete, noticed a crystal or drop of liquid coming from that spot. It got my gears turning and I did some checking. The BRT hasn’t been studied very extensively, and I failed to find any reference to a salt gland, but I did find a related species, another legume, called the salt wattle (acaccia ampliceps) with them. If you look that up, it doesn’t look much like a BRT, but it works the same and has a legume as the fruit.

Since the BRT lives in a coastal (read that as salty) area, I am willing to bet that it has an adaptation for expelling salt (which would include excess fertilizer salts like potassium and magnesium. In my research, when Google takes you into the “Scholarly Article” realm, you either learn a lot, or your eyes begin to go crooked. Plants, like people, can only use so much of a nutrient, and you will either poison it, such as in too much aluminum, or the plant ignores it, like manganese, or it expels it, like with potassium). That’s my story until someone can tell me different (Enrique?!).

In my studies I also learned of several different Chloroleucons, including one native to Mexico, called “CHLOROLEUCON MANGENSE”. I think the tree I worked on in this post could be one of them. Or that the genus is just that variable that a single seed pod can grow several different “species” of trees. But I don’t know, I’m not a geneticist, I just do bonsai. And the only bonsai scientist I know is Enrique Castano (anyone else is just like me, a google search specialist, which I have a certificate in:

Now that I’ve just thrown a full block of words at you that’s you just skipped over or read and you’re reaching for that energy drink to keep you awake, we return to our poor neglected bonsai, of which the styling is still in progress….

Defoliation serves several purposes. One, it lets you see the structure: I don’t need this branch, it breaks up the line and flow of the tree.

B: defoliation spurs new growth and branching…

And 3. In the least important aspect, you get smaller leaves. I only do that when I’m going to show the tree. We want regular sized leaves for their photosynthetic potentiality.

(In case you haven’t noticed, I’ve been using a bunch of 25¢ words in this post. I’m trying to keep up with the Jones’….)

Time to go to the next stop in the journey….

Ben’s studio at Agresta Gardens. I’m going back in time to the last blog post. The one where Ben worked on this tree:This is the “after” pic, with both sides done, by the way. I have, for posterity and historical curiosity, the tree very early in its development. With Ed Trout, no doubt, too!This man is an American bonsai master of incomparable grace, gravitas, humor, humility, style and talent. He is one of my heroes.

While I was helping Ben, I wired out the BRT.

Now, a new pot. One that won’t crack.

Wait, what?!

I did. Indeed I did. I made a welded steel crescent pot. Now, before you welders go on about ugly welds, I did it on purpose. I was running out of my Stargon™️ shielding gas on my old mig welder (18 years old) so the welds weren’t penetrating properly. I then switched to a flux core wire spool to finish and I got the idea, mid project, that all the splatter and slag would look cool on a pot, so I went over the other welds to “ugli-fy” them as well. It’s an artistic decision, I promise that the pot won’t fall apart…..

I was going to hide all the welds on the inside but, again, I chose to show them.

Unfortunately, the pot I made didn’t fit, so I had to make a second one….….oooops!

It’s a different shape and I put most of the welds inside. But to make it more ugly…I roughed up the cut edges and made them jagged looking (don’t worry, there are no real sharp edges)

And the tree fits. It’s almost like I measured or something this time……

Some root pruning….

And, after a long and rambling blog post, there it is!

Fertilized, pre-emergent-ized,

Wired for sound (I wonder if being a steel pot, it will create a field effect….)

It certainly will create a lot of head scratching and wondering. That’s ok, it’s my tree. And it could be something I pursue and refine. Or get bored with. I still have some cool ideas to try…..

I posted some teaser pics on social media. There were people who though it might get too hot (it doesn’t, I’ve been monitoring it next to several other pots and it’s the same temp) some say it will rust away too quickly, especially with the watering and fertilizing. I don’t think it will, steel that thick gets a layer of rust (if you let it, I sprayed it with a clear coat) that actually protects it from rusting faster. But we won’t see how quickly until a few years have passed. And it’s steel, I can cut off rusted parts, add more to it, even change the design in time. You can’t do that with a clay pot now, can you?

Lastly, people were worried about the iron hurting the plant. Well, we talked about that up in that part you skipped over, about a plant only using what it needs and ignoring the rest (iron is an essential nutrient that helps in the creation of the green in chlorophyll). And, in looking up iron toxicity, it’s usually only a problem if the plant is low in zinc, or it’s soil is alkaline, or it stays too wet. The soil I use is slightly acidic, my ferts are well represented in the micronutrient area, and I’m pretty sure the soil will not stay too wet, as coarse as it is.

I like it.

I think in the next blog post, I’ll see if I can kill a Chinese elm. Should be fun. See ya’!

8 thoughts

  1. Interesting hypothesis regarding the “secretions” along the leaf stem. Often I have I seen the same process. My reasoning was much like yours. Fertilizer with a seemingly high salt content, like the one I use on my BRT’s, brings such a response. A BRT study group? Interesting. I’ve been growing these trees for nearly a decade in the cold climate of NH. Very rugged tree and a good option for indoor growers. The compound leaves and their reflexive nature are drawbacks, however. Grumpy looking right now…..44 degrees this morning!! Have a great day!!


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