Age of Bonsai

GORDO4

Seed
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
If a small tree in a pot is 10 years old and removed from the pot and turned into a bonsai, does the age of the bonsai start at 10 years or does it start when it is turned into a bonsai?
 

GORDO4

Seed
Messages
3
Reaction score
0
So it could be described in this way:
1st year 10+0
2nd year 10+1
3rd year 10+2
And so on?
 

rockm

Spuds Moyogi
Messages
11,297
Reaction score
15,836
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
You're overthinking it...Bonsai have two ages, generally. Their natural age and their "bonsai" age. A collected 200 year old oak remains 200 years old when it is converted to bonsai cultivation, since in bonsai, the oldest part of the tree--the base, is used. It's "bonsai" age is how long it has been containerized. If you're growing from seed or using saplings the two ages are closer together.
 

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
Messages
10,887
Reaction score
22,335
Location
Charlotte area, North Carolina
USDA Zone
8a
You're overthinking it...Bonsai have two ages, generally. Their natural age and their "bonsai" age. A collected 200 year old oak remains 200 years old when it is converted to bonsai cultivation, since in bonsai, the oldest part of the tree--the base, is used. It's "bonsai" age is how long it has been containerized. If you're growing from seed or using saplings the two ages are closer together.
...and most importantly, age is almost completely irrelevant when it comes to bonsai. It doesn't matter how old a tree is. What matters is how old a tree looks.

Any time I go to a bonsai exhibition and I see "ages" posted with trees, I wince. First, because in most cases it is only the roughest of guesses. Second, because the number is meaningless. If I say my tree is 50 years old versus 300 years old... how does that make a difference?
 

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
Messages
10,887
Reaction score
22,335
Location
Charlotte area, North Carolina
USDA Zone
8a
A better question. If you air layer a 200 year old oak, is it still a 200 year old oak, or a new tree?
Or if you take a cutting from one... is the cutting only a couple of years old because that branch grew in the last two years? Or is it part of a 200 year old tree... therefore the cutting is considered 200 years old?
 

Forsoothe!

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,878
Reaction score
9,051
Location
Michigan
USDA Zone
6b
It is whatever you say it is! I lie, you lie, we all lie and embellish to our advantage because we rarely know the whole history of a tree. The only time I don't mislead observers with my own speculation is when I stumble on a nice nursery tree and can show it right away, then I put the age on since acquiring like this Forsythia less than one year in bonsai...
FMG 2020 Meijer 100521.JPG
 

rockm

Spuds Moyogi
Messages
11,297
Reaction score
15,836
Location
Fairfax Va.
USDA Zone
7
A better question. If you air layer a 200 year old oak, is it still a 200 year old oak, or a new tree?
The answer is a qualified "yes"

FWIW, every fastigate (upright growing) Irish yew in the nursery biz is a clone of a single 260 year-old tree growing in a churchyard in Northern Ireland. This article addresses that very question:

 

Bonsai Nut

Nuttier than your average Nut
Messages
10,887
Reaction score
22,335
Location
Charlotte area, North Carolina
USDA Zone
8a
The answer is a qualified "yes"
You answered an either/or question with a "yes" :)

We have joked about this before, because to be a cultivar, the material HAS to be a clone of the source material. It can't "look like". It can't "be a seed from". It has to be genetically identical. All Valencia orange trees in the world came from one tree. All kotobuki yatsubusa Japanese Black Pines came from one tree. Let's say the source material was 100 years old. Let's say one of the original cuttings taken from it is now 20 years old. Take a cutting from each tree. They are genetic clones. Is one older than the other? How old is each?
 

Grovic

Mame
Messages
230
Reaction score
268
Location
Bloomfield Hills, MI
USDA Zone
6a
You answered an either/or question with a "yes" :)

We have joked about this before, because to be a cultivar, the material HAS to be a clone of the source material. It can't "look like". It can't "be a seed from". It has to be genetically identical. All Valencia orange trees in the world came from one tree. All kotobuki yatsubusa Japanese Black Pines came from one tree. Let's say the source material was 100 years old. Let's say one of the original cuttings taken from it is now 20 years old. Take a cutting from each tree. They are genetic clones. Is one older than the other? How old is each?
Ok, how about we present the question differently?
For the sake of the argument assume that the following statement is true:

"Like their blossoms, flowering cherry trees themselves are fairly ephemeral too, at least as trees go. Most cultivars live only 30 to 40 years."

If I take a cutting from a 39 year old flowering cherry should I expect it to live for only one year? (I know this has been asked before, but I guess it is relevant for this discussion.)
 

Grovic

Mame
Messages
230
Reaction score
268
Location
Bloomfield Hills, MI
USDA Zone
6a
Ok, how about we present the question differently?
For the sake of the argument assume that the following statement is true:

"Like their blossoms, flowering cherry trees themselves are fairly ephemeral too, at least as trees go. Most cultivars live only 30 to 40 years."

If I take a cutting from a 39 year old flowering cherry should I expect it to live for only one year? (I know this has been asked before, but I guess it is relevant for this discussion.)
If yes, I'd say the cutting is a 39 YO plant. If no, I'd say it is a new plant.
 

Forsoothe!

Imperial Masterpiece
Messages
6,878
Reaction score
9,051
Location
Michigan
USDA Zone
6b
This question borders upon a mixed metaphor of mixing the life & lifespan of humans who die from old age with trees that at least theorectically can renew themselves forever until some outside force kills them. On one hand you can assume that the wood taken from an old tree is as old as the old tree even though a twig that you take may have just grown in the last year. The twig is one year old and everything that grows from it is newer. One the other hand, if a branch taken from the old tree is ten years old, then everything new is newer than ten years and the tree is not any older than ten years. In both cases most of the wood is new and none is very old like Mom. The underlying live parts of any tree are being renewed every year and over long periods of time the active parts of the tree are constantly renewed and young and the really old parts are just the structural parts, so yes the whole tree is supported by a big old frame, but an important percentage is very young. Therefore, we can only speak to applying an age to a given piece of wood.
 

Glaucus

Mame
Messages
225
Reaction score
327
Location
Netherlands
USDA Zone
7b
Set the age of the bonsai to the age of the oldest part of the bonsai. Twigs will be less than a year old. Branches several years to several decades. A trunk would be multiple decades or more, if the bonsai is old. If you have a 250 year old tree, and you lose the 250 year old part, but a branch that started 50 years ago, then that bonsai is 50 years old.

In a sense, you could count tree rings.

I think this is a logical way to count bonsai age.
 

Tums

Mame
Messages
237
Reaction score
224
Location
Woburn, MA, USA
USDA Zone
6a
But if you take a cutting from a tree that's old enough to flower, it can start flowering and fruiting earlier than a tree started from seed as if the cutting has some memory of how old it is. I don't have a strong viewpoint myself but there's something else to muddy the water.
 

Wires_Guy_wires

Masterpiece
Messages
4,742
Reaction score
7,599
Location
Netherlands
Genetic damage caused by age persists even in cuttings. So a cutting taken from a 1000 year old tree will have a 1000 years of genetic damage. Even though the cutting itself is a day old.
Plants can repair damage! They can fix some of it. Nobody really knows how, yet.

It depends on who you ask and how you look at it.
I'm fine with looking at it from both angles.

I too wince at the display of age next to a trees decription. What matters to me is appearance, and age is just a distracting thing.. It makes me wonder more about the methods of age verification than about the tree on display. Who the hell is counting and why does it matter? Why should it matter?
It's like displaying the age of a pearl necklace.
 

Glaucus

Mame
Messages
225
Reaction score
327
Location
Netherlands
USDA Zone
7b
Organisms have many ways to repair DNA. In most cells, DNA damage does not build up, but it is repaired. However, repairing or copying DNA can introduce mutations. And these do accumulate. However, since the emergence of the first double stranded DNA molecule, mutations have been building up and persisting for 3.4 to 4.5 billion years. This is true for every DNA molecule in existence. In slowly dividing cells, DNA damage can be an issue, though.

What sexual reproduction does is merely select a single variation on the DNA and create an entire new organism out of that variation. And in that organism, mutations are free to deviate as there is no mechanism that checks the DNA in our toe stays the same as the DNA in our ear. Same is true for plants.

Now there are many effects in cell biology related to aging. And this can link to DNA in different ways. It is a bit misleading to say that aging is caused just by DNA damage. It is much more than loss of control over biochemical processes that cause aging in humans than actual mutations in DNA. And it being a lot more true for humans than for trees. In general, age is determined more by species than by the age of a species. A 7 year old human will not have aging tissues. But a 7 year old rat will. Cells with unrecoverable bad DNA are killed. And cells where these DNA repair and control mechanisms are damaged become tumor cells and grow more rapidly than the original.

Also, this is all quite well understood.
 
Last edited:

AcerAddict

Shohin
Messages
281
Reaction score
315
Location
Coastal NC
USDA Zone
8a
If a small tree in a pot is 10 years old and removed from the pot and turned into a bonsai, does the age of the bonsai start at 10 years or does it start when it is turned into a bonsai?
IMHO, bonsai trees need two numbers for their age in most cases, with one for the age of the tree, and one denoting the number of years training. These two numbers can be the same thing. There are exceptions, of course.

Here's some examples of how I'd describe a tree to someone during conversation. I do not own any of the trees in the examples.
  1. This is a 12-year-old Japanese Maple that I grew from a seed. It's been in bonsai training since the beginning.
    • Here's where the number for both ages can be the same thing.
  2. I own a yamadori Ponderosa Pine that was in training for 7 years before I bought it 3 years ago. It was estimated to be 75 years old when it was collected.
    • This makes the current age 85 (75 + 7 + 3)
  3. This Portulacaria afra Jade tree was grown from a cutting that came off a 15-year-old tree. I've had it 7 years.
    • This means that while the original tree is now 22 years old, I would say mine is only about 7 or so because a cutting is typically a small shoot taken from the current year's growth.
  4. My elm started out as a branch on a 25-year-old tree, but got air layered off, which explains the sizeable trunk. I've been developing it for 5 years.
    • In this scenario, I wouldn't assign an age to my tree. If I was selling it to someone and they wanted an age, I would simply say the exact lines above because I don't know how old that branch had been on the original tree before separation.
 

Similar threads

Top Bottom