Newbie: collecting in Florida

Discussion in 'Collecting & importing' started by Torgo, Jan 10, 2011.

  1. Torgo

    Torgo Seedling

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Central Florida
    I've just been given a wonderful opportunity by a landowner, a very generous one that has given me carte blanche to collect after I explained the concept of yamadori to him. I feel like this is wasted on me, given my pitiful experience, and normally I'd defer this for some time to properly do my homework. However in this case the clock is ticking on me in a few points:
    • Many of these sites may be under construction next year.
    • Still others will be placed into (non-public-access) conservation status next year.
    • January-March might not be the ideal collection time, but when it comes to wetlands alligator mating season definitely isn't - I know enough to realize that I'm no Crocodile Dundee :)
    • Just like anyone else, I don't want to push back the process another year since I can't learn everything just by reading and watching.

    I believe in ethical collecting, so if and when I find a stunted tree that I decide to take, I will backfill with native soil (and seed/plant a sapling if it's a native species). I'm going to follow the Leave No Trace ethic the best I can, but collection is new to me. Since there's of course no "true" yamadori in Florida, I'm looking for other conditions where trees might be stunted from their normal growth pattern - particularly Taxodium (pond & bald cypress) and of course invasive species if/when I can ID them.

    I'm not planning to so much as put a single wire on these trees for 3-5 years - could someone with experience collecting in Florida give me some pointers? I've read up on this the best I could, but there's so much info out there and much of the advice conflicts with others, from people who think no one should collect with less than 20 yrs experience, to people who think putting any kind of plant in a pot is unethical, etc. Wading between the various opinions to find a proper course of action is difficult, and out of respect for the landowner's wishes, I'm unable to disclose details about where I'd be collecting to local bonsai clubs in order to get advice. I can specify the types of ecosystems if needed, but I'm pretty sure this permission covers most types of systems that exist in the state.

    Maybe waiting is the best idea, but if possible I'd like to take advantage of this great opportunity and collect now, so that I can have some specimens to work with when I'm ready. Until then I'll keep tormenting my poor nursery stock as I learn from my mistakes. :) Please, anyone with more experience (which is everyone!) your guidance is welcome, and thanks.

    (I live on the 9A/9B zone border, but permission also covers tracts in 8B and 10A.)
     
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  3. Bill S

    Bill S Masterpiece

    Messages:
    2,494
    Location:
    Western Massachusetts
    First things first, if it doesn't have a worthwhile trunk, leave it alone, there is a better one a little further on.

    Serious on that point, but do you know what is growing in that area.
     
  4. Torgo

    Torgo Seedling

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Wow thanks for the quick response! I'm not going out this weekend, but pretty soon.

    This is such a wide permission, I pretty much have my choice of any Floridian ecosystem. Judging from the aerials, most of them have dirt roads that will get me pretty far in, so it's really a question of which Florida species are worth collecting. I don't expect to find any good junipers that will compare with mountain-grown specimen, but I've seen a decent number of collected cypress that produced nice formal uprights. I know generally how to get to cypress-dominated areas and the borders where other trees are competing, but I've never dug one up before.

    Regarding other species, you name it I can probably find it with a little advanced research - for the zones I mentioned. Any tips on what are the more promising species would be most welcome!
     
  5. digger714

    digger714 Shohin

    Messages:
    367
    Location:
    Mooresville, NC - USA
    As far as the cypress trees. Most people decide what size trunk you want, then collect. Chop the tree at the desired height, then replant in a container for two years to recover. Then it can start being worked into a bonsai tree. Here is a pic of one that i am going to start work on this spring. I think it was collected in 06 or 07.
     

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  6. jkl

    jkl Masterpiece

    Messages:
    3,442
    Location:
    Western NC
    I strongly advise you to take someone with experience along with you!

    You should also find water elm (Planera aquatica) in the same wet environment. Fetterbush (Lyonia lucida) also grow in similar situations. Also Youpon Holly (I. vomitoria).
     
  7. Torgo

    Torgo Seedling

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Central Florida
    I wish I could take someone with experience, that would solve everything...unfortunately the landowner was very specific about that. The only way I could find someone with experience is to poll the local bonsai clubs, and in so doing I'd pretty much have to disclose who the landowner is, which would flood their offices with phone calls or possibly people just showing up on their properties. This was a BIG favor from a friend of a friend and I need to tread pretty carefully.

    I won't go alone of course for safety reasons, I have a couple friends that are pretty outdoor-savvy as well, but know nothing about bonsai.

    I'll keep my eyes out for those other species, and with any luck in a few years I'll have some specimens like digger714.

    As for collecting from wetlands, my plan right now is sort of a wade-and-shovel approach. I'm trying to be mindful of impact, as much as possible but of course yanking a plant from the earth is always an impact. Any tips on how to cut roots and dig from inundated areas?

    On selection, what sort of areas might have the most promise? There's a sort of "karst ridge" in central Florida that I was planning to hit first, the tract also includes some swamps and a couple lakes. Sadly no mountains, but that was my guess for the next-best-thing.
     
  8. digger714

    digger714 Shohin

    Messages:
    367
    Location:
    Mooresville, NC - USA
    This is where some experience will help. With cypress, I would cut with a sawzall or similar around the tree about 8-10" outside of the trunk and lean over to cut the tap root, then put into burlap, or a container. Go ahead and chop to the desired height. Wet the roots, then take back to prepare for potting in a large container to recover. Most others would be fine this way also. When you start taking some out, youll be able to see how much soil you can keep with them.
     
  9. Mark

    Mark Mame

    Messages:
    111
    I would try to get in touch with Mary Madison, she has done as much collecting in Florida as anyone.
    You might have to offer her incentive but she is very good and you would learn and have a great time.
    I think she would have a hard time passing up a good Bonsai adventure!

    Mark
     
  10. Torgo

    Torgo Seedling

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Yikes, carrying a reciprocating saw out there? I've got a corded one plus a 400W power inverter for my car battery, should handle it, but carrying it around submerged areas doesn't sound that doable, at least for me. I might be able to get access to an airboat once I convince someone that I'm not completely crazy :cool: but the base might still be submerged. I've never tried to saw through a living tree before using a folding saw, but it's got to be easier than hauling a sawsall plus a battery for several miles. Is a cordless sawsall worth it and do they have enough juice to get the job done?

    Thanks, I'll try to find this person and supplicate their advice...as for going with us, the person whose call it was to give permission strongly stressed the point not to spread it around or tell any other "wild plant collecting enthusiasts". I almost didn't post about this at all, I'm just trying to be cryptic about whose land we're on to keep it kosher. Other owners of land in conservation have already had a big problem with wild orchid collectors (in fact that was the main reason the water mgmt districts had to enforce a strict policy against taking from their lands). I'm sure that's a floodgate he doesn't want to open so I have to be pretty careful. Granted, it's hundreds of sq miles all around the state, but I'd hate to be the indirect cause of some eventual situation where people are chaining themselves to trees or lying down in front of bulldozers, or maybe I've just been drinking too much. :)

    Edit: I did a poor job of searching, read about Mary Madison but can't seem to find any contact info on her. People mention her nursery in Lake Placid but they don't seem to have a website. Any pointers?
     
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2011
  11. jkl

    jkl Masterpiece

    Messages:
    3,442
    Location:
    Western NC
    What equipment you take depends on how large the trees you are looking for. Small and mid-sized tree roots can be cut with a hand saw. The big (and IMHO, ugly) teepee-type bald cypress require brawn and power tools. And remember that, unless you will have an ATV or other transportation nearby, you have o cart out everything you dig.

    I strongly suggest you make two trips. Trip 1 would be taken with NO tools; only some surveyor's tape. Find and mark trees you think are possibilities. When you find a better tree, unmark the earlier one. Otherwise you are in danger of digging up trees that you later don't really want and that is a waste!
     
  12. rockm

    rockm Masterpiece

    Messages:
    4,075
    Location:
    Fairfax Va.
    You should reason with your friend about being able to get someone knowledgeable about bonsai collecgting to either come along or ask about the specifics of collecting. I understand about not wanting to let the cat out of the bag with local bonsai collectors in general, but believe that may be a bit overblown.

    However, your trip and collection efforts have the potential of wasting efforts and, more importantly, trees.

    I would tell your friend that to do what he's allowing you to do successfully, you will need some expert assistance to avoid wasting such a valuable opportunity and resources. I would then approach some knowledgeable bonsaiists (preferably long time practioner/hobbyists) in the area, or in areas that have similar environments. I'd ask those experts about collection techniques or to possibly accompany you on the trip.

    There are many notable collectors and bonsaiist in Fla., however, asking them could be a bit problematic since they are more local and could spur more land owner's concerns...

    Notable collectors in the S.E. include Gary Marchal and Guy Guidry. You might also want to give Dan Robinson a call. All these guys are long-time collectors and have dug a variety of species, including Bald cypress--which is probably what you will have the most success collecting.

    For what it's worth, I've found most collectors affiliated with clubs to be extremely concious of environmental situations and their duties to protect and conserve resources.
     
  13. Torgo

    Torgo Seedling

    Messages:
    7
    Location:
    Central Florida
    Edit: just re-read what I wrote. I'm a complete novice and I need to listen to opinions, not offer my own at this point. I think it's a great idea to contact these collectors, now that you've helpfully pointed them out to me, and thanks! I would never have known whom to contact without your help.

    On the permission side - just to emphasize - the person who granted me permission was not my friend, but rather a boss-of-a-colleague-of-a-friend-of-a-friend. Basically, he doesn't know me, only that I somehow got his direct line; he went way out of his way (and took some risk!) to grant a favor to a stranger. It's not a concern for bonsai enthusiasts' respect for nature, which I've come to admire, but I just wouldn't want this favor to result in his line getting bogged down with additional phone calls disrupting his real-world business. Under the circumstances I can't really pester him any more to extend that favor.
     
    Last edited: Jan 11, 2011

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