Acer rubrum internode reduction

jeanluc83

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The biggest down side of red maples, acer rubrum, is the huge internode length. I have a thought on how to handle this but have not had a chance to try my theory. I'll say it again that this is untested on my part.

My idea is to treat them similar to JBP. Since the first push of growth is so long why not just get rid of it in favor of the shorter growth you get later in the season. I would let the shoots extend until they have just started to harden off then cut back to the original node. This could be an extreme form of defoliation similar to hedge trimming but more selective. The next push of growth would have shorter internodes (maybe). It may be possible that the tree would go into survival mode and try to push lots of growth with even longer internodes. That is where the testing needs to be done.

The other part of the equation would be the proper timing for fertilizer application. My thought on this would be to fertilize heavily in the spring and possibly late fall but stop fertilizing after the cut back.

Do you think my idea has merit (it could even be an established technique for all I know)? For everyone out there growing red maple how do you control internode length?
 

drew33998

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The first internodal space keeps growing as the shoot grows longer as does each successive internode. So you wait until it hardens and it will still have a long first internode. Cut back to the first node and repeat and you will still have a long internode.
 

sorce

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Man....
I was a waiting to see what people would say.....
I wasn't expecting to wait so long.....

I think "cut back to 2 pair" is what is written so much......because those first 2 are usually pretty short.
At least in 90% of the trees I see.

I saw a maple the other day, a young freshly planted likely some cultivar of Rubrum.

And on a 5in stick, it had nodes every bout 1/4in.

I'm with you....
There is a way.

Sorce
 

Eric Group

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Leaves/ internodes reduce a little just from controlled growth- IE putting it in a smaller pot and pruning it...

I have found that they push their heaviest growth from branches that were not pruned the previous season. These branches have generally got three buds at the tip in Spring- a really big one in the middle with two smaller ones at the base. You can take tweezers or your fires and just pop off that largest bud if you wish, that can slow it down a bit, but I like to cut back the hard wood to a lower spot where tiny bids are pushing further up the branch whenever possible. This can really lead to smaller leaves/ shorter nodes in a hurry! It is hard to do every year though, as you would not build much ramification if you are constantly removing all/ most of the previous year's growth. IOW, they are a challenge. It does not matter how/when/ where you prune, they make thick branches- even the young ones- so they will never get as ramified as a nice old Trident or JM. They have their own benefits- mainly Spring and Fall color- so, you just have to kind of learn to work with the disadvantages if you want to keep Rubrum as part of your collection. Many people do not consider them suitable for Bonsai.
 

jeanluc83

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Cut back to the first node and repeat and you will still have a long internode.
My thought is to cut back to the original node the shoot emerged from not the first node in much the same way as JBP. All the new growth is removed to encourage new shoots from the original node.

Many people do not consider them suitable for Bonsai.
I think the best cultivar for bonsai just hasn't been found yet. There is so much variability within the species that I'm sure there is a tree out there with naturally short internodes and small leaves. It just needs to be found and cultivated. Easy right?
 

wireme

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Here's what I do.
I don't cut back to the bud I want to keep, rather I cut one or two steps out. The buds left at the end grow long internodes, those further in grow shorter and can be pruned back to once extension growth hardens.
In this shot my finger points to the keeper bud, this will have short internodes and will be used in the future. This particular bud is future trunk line. The buds at the tip of the trunk will have very long internodes. image.jpg
This branch was cut last summer, too late maybe, didn't grow, growing now though. I want to use something near my fingertips but made the cut further out to control internode length. image.jpgI can't show you killer trees developed this way, don't have many decid. and they are all young still. The technique seems to show promise to me from what I've seen so far.
I'm pretty sure I read of this trick on Brent's evergreen site 10 years ago or so, aside from that I never really see it discussed.
What do you all think, does it sound like a reasonable approach?
 

0soyoung

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I've noticed that like a lot of other maples, red maples will occasionally pop buds that will become low lateral stems. The internode length on these low stems is much smaller (as is the leaf size too). So, you might get somewhere by a variation of the pine development technique where one lets a sacrifice trunk/branch grow several feet tall, making sure the small lateral branches that you want down below get light. The difference in this case is that you are growing a big sacrifice to control lateral internode length instead of making a big fat trunk, per se.

I think this to what @wireme described in post #6, but with a big change in scale - a variation on the theme that may be helpful.
 

Eric Group

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My thought is to cut back to the original node the shoot emerged from not the first node in much the same way as JBP. All the new growth is removed to encourage new shoots from the original node.



I think the best cultivar for bonsai just hasn't been found yet. There is so much variability within the species that I'm sure there is a tree out there with naturally short internodes and small leaves. It just needs to be found and cultivated. Easy right?
I think we have found them! They are called Trident Maples! ;)
 

rockm

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My thought is to cut back to the original node the shoot emerged from not the first node in much the same way as JBP. All the new growth is removed to encourage new shoots from the original node.



I think the best cultivar for bonsai just hasn't been found yet. There is so much variability within the species that I'm sure there is a tree out there with naturally short internodes and small leaves. It just needs to be found and cultivated. Easy right?
The best cultivar was found a long while ago---Acer rubrum "Drummondii" Fla. Swamp maple. This is Vaughn Banting's drummondii forest. It's been in a pot roughly 35 years...probably more.
bantingredmaple.jpg
 

jeanluc83

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This little article written by our very own Jim Lewis is hosted on Brent's article page:

https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/redmaple.htm
Thanks for the link. I do remember coming across that a while back but completely forgot about it.

The best cultivar was found a long while ago---Acer rubrum "Drummondii" Fla. Swamp maple.
I would be curious about winter hardiness in the northern extent of the range.
 

rockm

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Thanks for the link. I do remember coming across that a while back but completely forgot about it.



I would be curious about winter hardiness in the northern extent of the range.
It is native up into Illinois and Indiana in the west, up into New Jersey on the east coast. I'm pretty sure it would be hardy with a bit of protection in Connecticut.
 

VAFisher

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I did a little experimenting on one of mine on a branch that shot out some long growth and big leaves (I fed it pretty heavy before the leaves had hardened off). But I'm encouraged by this:



I pruned back to the first set of leaves and then pruned those leaves off too. It exploded with buds on the older wood. That's pretty short internodes and hopefully the leaves will be small.
 

johng

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After a decade or more of playing with both red maples and what I call swamp maples(red maples collected in the swamps of SC) I gave them all away. I would get promising results for a time and then they would go crazy again...this pattern repeated itself several times... Just decided that I could achieve better results and less frustration with a different species...Tridents:)

That said I have seen a few others with limited success... I would point to Arthur Joura of the NC Arboretum as someone that has had moderate success with larger material.
 

miker

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My swamp maples are long and leggy with long internodes and large leaves as well, no surprise there. I guess I will plan for 36" bonsai for these two. Acer rubrum is like the "All-American" maple. Surely a truly bonsai suitable variety exists somewhere. I have seen a few Acer rubrum cultivars online but none that were noted for dwarf characteristics.

Acer rubrum drummondii seems like a relatively promising variety to start with.

I wonder if the growth would be naturally reduced to proper proportions in 50-100+ year old Acer rubrum bonsai. I know that this species is reportedly not particularly long lived. I did read in a book at some point that such lifespan limits on trees in nature do not apply to bonsai, since the conditions that normally lead to death from old age (rot/disease, excessive height, or simply genetic factors once a tree reaches full size) are controlled/eliminated by the application of bonsai techniques. In fact, the book contended that the lifespan of well maintained and cared for bonsai is, in theory, unlimited. I found this exciting when I read it and I wonder if this concept would apply to really short lived tree species like birch and redbud.

I am going to start researching dwarf varieties (if these currently exist in horticultural circles) as well as searching local hydric forests for individuals that have favorable characteristics. It just seems odd that temperate Asia has so many excellent Acer species that lend themselves well to bonsai, while North America does not seem to have a single species that fits this bill. Maybe this wealth of bonsai suitable maples from Asia is due to centuries of selective breeding and such? I would be interested to see what the trees look like in a "wild" trident maple forest.

If I find anything promising, I will post an update.
 

Arlithrien

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Going to revive this discussion as the red maple is one good specimen away from being a solid bonsai candidate.

I have recently learned that drummonds maple is not a cultivar but a variety or subspecies of the red maple which as far as I can tell is distinguished by its leathery leaf surface and velvety white underside and found primarily in the coastal south in wet areas. Then you have acer rubrum var. Tribolum or Carolina maple that is similar in texture but has a three-toothed leaf shape.

Here is an interesting resource that claims North Florida has a variety with 1.5 inch leaves: https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/redmaple.htm

I've been keeping an eye on Acer rubrum in my area as well, looking for standout specimen. Here's one I found with dense foliage growth. I took a few cuttings and will be attempting an air layer soon.
 

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A. Gorilla

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Going to revive this discussion as the red maple is one good specimen away from being a solid bonsai candidate.

I have recently learned that drummonds maple is not a cultivar but a variety or subspecies of the red maple which as far as I can tell is distinguished by its leathery leaf surface and velvety white underside and found primarily in the coastal south in wet areas. Then you have acer rubrum var. Tribolum or Carolina maple that is similar in texture but has a three-toothed leaf shape.

Here is an interesting resource that claims North Florida has a variety with 1.5 inch leaves: https://www.evergreengardenworks.com/redmaple.htm

I've been keeping an eye on Acer rubrum in my area as well, looking for standout specimen. Here's one I found with dense foliage growth. I took a few cuttings and will be attempting an air layer soon.
891.jpg
 

sdavis

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My thought is to cut back to the original node the shoot emerged from not the first node in much the same way as JBP. All the new growth is removed to encourage new shoots from the original node.



I think the best cultivar for bonsai just hasn't been found yet. There is so much variability within the species that I'm sure there is a tree out there with naturally short internodes and small leaves. It just needs to be found and cultivated. Easy right?
There is one. Acer grandidentatum "big tooth maple"
 
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