Bonchili - bonsai chili trees - Capsicum pubescens (Ruiz & Pavon) 1799

Leo in N E Illinois

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At the moment, I'm killing time, avoiding doing productive tasks, like mowing the lawn.

There are a few here that have dabbled with growing chili pepper plants using bonsai styling techniques to make "Bonchi" or "Bonchili" or "Bonsai chili trees". If one has a sense of humor, or doesn't take the project overly seriously, the results can be fun. They will be unlikely to take show ribbons or awards, but you can develop a chili pepper plant that looks somewhat tree like and has the benefit of brightly colored chili peppers.

The culinary chili peppers are usually selected varieties and hybrids from just a few species, Capsicum annuum (jalapeño & NM Hatch chilies), Capsicum baccatum (Aji amarillo), Capsicum chinense (habenero), and Capsicum fructescens (Piri piri & tabasco), These pepper species are the base species in most of the culinary pepper varieties. These are mostly annual or short lived perennial in their growth habits. With protection from frosts, one can sometimes get 2 or 3 years out of a plant of one of the above species, but seldom will one get more than that. This means any "bonsai Chili" will be a short term "whimsical" project.

Except, here is a species for you Pepper Heads to get excited about.

Capsicum pubescens (Ruiz and Pavon) 1799

Capsicum pubescens is usually called the 'Manzano' pepper. It came to my attention due to a big culinary mistake I made. In early August I bought some nice looking yellow peppers. I picked them up at my grocery store, with the thought, or vague hope that they would be a relatively low heat habanero type pepper. Boy, was I wrong. I can eat jalapeno like candy, but these things were fiercely hot. I am not a scotch bonnet or scorpion pepper fan, I know my limits, and this 'Manzano' was way beyond my heat tolerance. And, it had curious seeds, the seeds were black. So the other day I finally looked this one up. 'Manzano' peppers come in red and or yellow varieties. It is a fiery hot pepper, that according to Wikipedia weighs in at a searing 50,000 to 250,000 Scoville heat units. It is no Bhut Jolokia or Trinidad scorpion, but they are way hotter than anything I am willing to tolerate. I gave most of mine to a friend with a higher heat tolerance than myself, and he pronounced them excellent. He began putting them in everything. He says there is a lot a flavor after your tongue calms down after the first blast of heat. I'd did figure out how I could tolerate the pepper. I make a full 2 quarts of my chili, deseed one 'Manzano' and only slice it in half. I allow it to cook for about 20 minutes in the chili, then I remove the 'Manzano' pieces. After an additional hour of simmering, the entire 2 pounds of beans, sweet peppers, hominy, pork and beef mixture will be right at my upper heat tolerance level.

What caught my eye in the description is that this pepper is native to Bolivia & Peru, and is a favorite of the Quechua people. It is one of the few peppers that like cool growing season (high elevation), which caught my eye, as my summers are too cool and short to get much out of New Mexico peppers, which I dearly love. The key factoid from Wikipedia, "they grow quickly to 4 meters, the tree like bush will produce fruit for up to 15 years." Catch that? 15 years! This is a woody shrub or small tree that is not an annual. With a 15 year life span, one would have time to "train with bonsai techniques". Capsicum pubescens is definitely an ideal species to try for "Bonchili".

So over the winter, after I get my not quite hardy trees indoors, I might start some of the seeds I saved from the peppers I could not eat. I got them in the fresh produce dept of my local Woodsman's Grocery Store. They should not be too hard to find in any store with a large produce area. They were in bulk the first time I saw them, and then the second time they were packaged by "What The Fruit" a company that packages less common fruit like guava, kumquats, sapodilla, dragon fruit, and other less than "common" produce.

Just from reading Wikipedia I suspect the horticulture of Capsicum pubescens will be relatively easy. They will tolerate cool. They will need full sun or the equivalent of full sun all winter. Under lights use the higher tech LED lamps that have an output sufficient to grow marijuana, as marijuana is a full sun plant and every "Grow Shop" or Hydroponics shops even in states where marijuana is still illegal, will use "peppers" to stand in for marijuana. So the grow shops will tell you what system is bright enough for pepper or tomatoes. And you will be one of the few who will actually be raising peppers. Any any other of your tender full sun trees for bonsai. Remember, full sun at the high elevations of Peru and Bolivia is much more intense than "full sun" at sea level. I suggest using a long day length, as a long daylength, like 18 hours lights on, 6 hours lights off, can to some degree make up for lower light intensities. This species, being from relatively close to the equator is probably not day length sensitive. Meaning there is no need to worry about mimicking the day length outdoors, because the growth habit of 'Manzano' is not likely governed by day length. So longer day length will help compensate for lower light intensity.

So if the idea of a bonsai trained chili pepper ever caught your eye, Capsicum pubescens - the 'Manzano' is the one to try. They have nice purple flowers, and either red or yellow fruit.


Photo is of one month past their prime 'Manzano' that are just hanging out in my fridge, waiting for me to deseed them. The black seed on the plate are the black seeds from the one I previously de-seeded for my culinary experiment.

IMG_20210909_130108371_HDR.jpg
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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Forgot to mention, the reason I included the (Ruiz & Pavon) 1799 after the botanical name for the Capsicum pubescens is because the first europeans to collect, describe and publish a description of this pepper was the team of Ruiz and Pavon. They happen to be the ones who first collected and described my favorite orchid species. Phragmipedium caudatum was first described by Ruiz and Pavon, collected on the same expedition in 1795 - 1798 that they lead, where they collected specimens of many of the trees, shrubs, flowering plants, and culinary plants of Peru, Ecuador and Colombia on behalf of Spanish Empire. If you are into dusty books written in an older style of Spanish and botanical Latin, their journals describe the wonders they encountered. Many of the areas were "new to European eyes". Ruiz and Pavon in many way hold a similar status to the USA's Lewis and Clark Expedition. Lewis and Clark started their trip in 1801 just a few years after Ruiz and Pavon had returned. So if you are into South American history and discovery, Ruiz and Pavon should be on your reading list.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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@HorseloverFat - remember, this whole thread is "Internet Knowledge", in the category of "Vague but True". Beyond burning my tongue, I have no hands on information about this pepper beyond what I have read on the internet. But hopefully I gleaned the relevant bits that one would need to try this species as "bonsai chili".

The flower photos were very pretty purple flowers, and the fruit are attractive, so if the 15 year "life span" of the tree like shrub is "real", then indeed this might be a good candidate for "bonsai chilies".
 

HorseloverFat

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@HorseloverFat - remember, this whole thread is "Internet Knowledge", in the category of "Vague but True". Beyond burning my tongue, I have no hands on information about this pepper beyond what I have read on the internet. But hopefully I gleaned the relevant bits that one would need to try this species as "bonsai chili".

The flower photos were very pretty purple flowers, and the fruit are attractive, so if the 15 year "life span" of the tree like shrub is "real", then indeed this might be a good candidate for "bonsai chilies".
Absolutely!!!

I abandoned the idea, because when lifespan was factored in, the trouble seemed larger then the “paydirt”..

But if 15 years can be achieved, I will reconsider...

I know more about Chiles and Marijuana then I know of any other “crop”

🤣🤣
 

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