Baobab as bonsai

DanS

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I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Botswana and fell in love with baobab trees. Now that I'm beginning to explore the art of bonsai, I was wondering about using baobab as bonsai. I know it is possible, I've seen pictures on the internet, but how are they to grow and maintain within a container? Considering how slowly baobabs usually grow, I would assume I'd need a fairly well established pre-bonsai to even consider it. I'd love to eventually grow a baobab forest similar to Baines' Baobabs (http://www.botswana-tourism.gov.bw/attractions/baines.html), a cluster of seven baobabs next to a pan. I've have a weaving made by local artisans hanging in my living room.

Thanks,
Dan
 
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Attila Soos

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Considering how slowly baobabs usually grow, I would assume I'd need a fairly well established pre-bonsai to even consider it.
That's right.
To grow something that looks remotely like Baine's baobabs, using those young baobab seedlings that are sold on the Internet, you would need to spend at least 15 years cultivating them. And this is just a wild guess, since I've been growing almost everything else, other than baobab.

Baobab is a succulent, so growing them in containter is not too difficult if you keep them indoors as soon as temperatures get too cold for them. They cannot be watered at all during their winter dormancy.

The problem is the enormous amount of time that you need before they become bonsai, since they grow so slow.
I have no personal experience with them though, it would be nice to hear from somebody who actually grows them.
 
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AndyWilson

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Baobabs are very difficult to create successful bonsai with in my experience (and thats limited) they form almost no roots at all apart from the tap root. The tap will have to be left on until the trunk attains the desired thickness and only then removed. The roots tend to grow slowly and weakly. It is difficult to get a fine root network and they can form rather large bulbous (sp?) roots. Here is a quick link that may help.

http://www.saba.org.za/baobabs.htm

Having said all of this my teacher has some very impressive examples, but doesn't reccomment this species for begginners. By the By there are many varieties the ones in botswana are adansonai digitata. I used to live there for 11 years and gorw em in my garden!
 

Attila Soos

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Baobabs are very difficult to create successful bonsai with in my experience (and thats limited) they form almost no roots at all apart from the tap root. The tap will have to be left on until the trunk attains the desired thickness and only then removed. The roots tend to grow slowly and weakly. It is difficult to get a fine root network and they can form rather large bulbous (sp?) roots. Here is a quick link that may help.

http://www.saba.org.za/baobabs.htm

Having said all of this my teacher has some very impressive examples, but doesn't reccomment this species for begginners. By the By there are many varieties the ones in botswana are adansonai digitata. I used to live there for 11 years and gorw em in my garden!
Thanks Andy for the great read on baobab.
I am glad that we have you here from South Africa, I just love the tree species growing in your part of the world, fascinating flora, can't get enough of them here in California.
We have an arboretum here in L.A. where there is a large South African section of native trees. So I've been growing them from seed for quite a few years now. I assume that the baobab cannot survive here in Southern California, otherwise I would think that we would have them here at the arboretum. May be it's because it gets a little too chilly in the winter. There is not much rain here either, so the temperature may be the only problem.
 

DanS

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Thanks for the article. I have a question though. So it is recommended that tree is left in a deep pot with its tap root until the desired width is obtained and then the root can be removed and the tree placed in a bonsai container. Does the tree continue to grow after cutting the tap root? Does it sprout a new tap root, and if so how fast does it grow, how often does it need to be re-potted? If the tap root is the main route for nutrients and water to enter the tree I would assume a quick re-growth of the root.
 

AndyWilson

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Hey Atilla, i enjoy being here and wish i could contribute more, but i only know my natives at the moment! By the way check if they have a Celtis Africana there, its similar to the hackberry and makes fantastic bonsai. It called Stinkwood locally, dunno why it doesnt smell of anything to me!

Dan the tree will keep growing but the trunk thickness will only increase gradually. Bulbous roots can form continually and are removed when they do, i have only seen this process and never done it myself. I will ask my teacher to explain it to me more fully so i can share it here.

They grow very slowly and thats why they are left in larger containers here. Unless they can be protected from water we do not put them in the ground as the frost or a late rain will kill them. They will continue to grow once the tap is cut but only slowly. The tree stores most of the nutrients and water in its trunk. Thats why the trunk is at first very long and thin while the tree is developing. They only start the massive swelling when they are quite old. The ones i used to see in Botswana would open up huge flowers ( one to two feet long) at night for a breif period then close them up just as rapidly, the locals said something about them praising God, becasue they believe it was him who turned the tree upside down in the first place!
 
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Attila Soos

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By the way check if they have a Celtis Africana there, its similar to the hackberry and makes fantastic bonsai. It called Stinkwood locally, dunno why it doesnt smell of anything to me!
It's interesting that you've mentioned Celtis Africana, since just two months ago I brought home a bunch of them, 1 yr-old seedlings. I was at the arboretum, and just discovered that there is a large Celtis Africana there. Previously I didn't realize that this is an African hackberry species. So, I got excited and ask the gardeners to let me collect a few seedlings from under the tree. It was in the middle of the summer, but they survived the transplant, and now they are vigorously growing in a nursery pot. Next spring I will plant them in the ground of my backyard for about 5 years, they seem to grow very fast.

You are right, I dont' smell anything either, may be the name refers to the freshly cut lumber, who knows.
 

Attila Soos

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.. but i only know my natives at the moment!
If I were you, I would focus exclusively on your native trees. There are enough people in the world growing elms, junipers and black pines. Becoming an expert in S. African natives would set you apart from the rest of the crowd.
 

AndyWilson

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Yeah might be, i dont know anything about the other hackberry species but you can form aerial root son the Stinkwood i am playing around with this at the moment. they do grow very quickly and are favoured here as bonsai subjects. Good luck with them, i find they make fantastic broom and upright bonsai. If only i could get them to look like my teachers...

Yeah i really enjoy my natives, love the acacias too, makes me dream about the sunsets i used to see in Botswana...
 

AndyWilson

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After considering this species for a while and discussing with some locals i have discovered that they are very difficult to make as good bonsai. Here is a pic of one from the SABA convention. It is very old and has been gently handled for a long time. this is one of the best i have seen so far and is actually very large.
 

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Attila Soos

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After considering this species for a while and discussing with some locals i have discovered that they are very difficult to make as good bonsai.
You mean the Celtis africana?
I am puzzled, why would that be. To me it looks like any other Celtis, all great for bonsai.
 

AndyWilson

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Okay, i am really changing my mind on this baobab thing, after visiting the East Rand Bonsai Society and seeing Tommy Ramiah's baobab i am going to give these guys another go. Tommy said that this tree was about 3 or 4 years from the original chop if i remember correctly. hmm time to get me some more of these.
 

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Well in my wife and our experience, growing baobobs from seeds they grow very quickly in height but not in girth. We have 3 one year old seedlings which are at most about a .5cm at the base, but they have been dormant since right before the end of autumn. Which comes a little quickly here in Quebec. We have chopped them to see what happens come summer to see if they will sprout out some actual branches or continue their upward climb to sky. When we have cut them the longest of the 3 was about 3 feet tall. Now we have them all down to about 10-15cm. We will keep posting of progress with them, but I think it is like most everyone has said they are slow growing.
 

GerhardG

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Impalila Island

Hi

I know this is an old thread, just saw it.

For interest sake, there's a small baobab at one of the villages on Impalila Island in the Caprivi strip of Namibia, the spot where 4 countries meet.

It's about 60-70cm high, perfectly formed and just slightly thinner than the ussual profile of these trees.
This tree is reportedly seven years old, and truly any bonsai practitioners dream.
The truly amazing thing is the conditions under which these trees grow. The island is rocky in places and the earth is red clay. This area is tropical, and when the rains come everything turns to red mud that sticks worse than glue. This mud then turns to red stone for 9 months of the year.
There are several trees just younger than 1000 years, and a 2000 year old monster that needs to be seen to be believed.
Fortunately this island is a conservancy, the 1200 inhabitants put considerable pressure on the natural resources as it is.
The age of the tree might be mis-reported, but considering this tree and the ones I've seen in cultivation locally (3-4 years old) I suspect there's a bit of a trick to growing them.

Regards,
Gerhard
 

onlyrey

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Succulent for Baobab Bonsai

Interesting I was just taking some pictures of one of my new projects. This is a succulent tree I bought from rareexotics.com.

This is the page where I bought mine from:
http://www.rareexotics.com/store/index.php/cat_278

The owner of the site/succulent nursery had called the tree "Mexican Baobab #4"; he named it that because it is a collected tree for which he doesn't really know the species. This tree comes from Oxaca Mexico. It came over the mail very well packaged and I reduced and planted immediately.

A couple of weeks ago the tree developed buds all around and a couple of days ago, the leaves started to come back. One thing I will take into consideration next time I cut branches is that a small portion of the branches die at the cut site. It looks to me as if the thiner the branch, the longer the die-back.

Of course, this tree is not a Baobab, but I am hoping I can make it look like one at some point.

I wonder if anybody else is also trying to make anything look like a Baobab. AND if anybody can ID the species. Is there a change it might be a Ficus?
 

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GerhardG

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Who knows

Is this a typo, or it is really just seven years old?
Hi Atilla

I worked at a lodge on the island that's been there for 12/13 years.
The village close to the tree has obviously been there longer.
7 years is the age we were given, no way to verify that, they could've missed the seedling for 3 years........
The different methods used to guess/determine the age is facinating in itself, unfortunately there aren't many young trees to provide some comparison.

I do know one thing, living and working inbetween these trees is an experience, standing next to the 2000 year old tree is humbling like few things I've experienced.

Regards,
Gerhard
 
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