Brazilian Rain Tree Development

Alex DeRuiter

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Here's a BRT I bought last year at the West Michigan Bonsai Convention. At the time of purchase I knew very little about what to look for in stock trees, and thought it looked "awesome." If I knew then what I think I know now, I probably would have passed; but this is not the case. Now I have the tree and I'll see what I can make out of it.

That being said, there are a few (several?) things that need development. Soon after I purchased the tree, I was informed that it had a big issue of reverse taper. To correct this, I did a ground layer and had success, and a little luck. It ended up with a decent spread of roots.

Now, having decided on a "final" image of the tree, I'm looking to develop a deeper canopy. The top is very flat and I need to round it off, so to speak. Does anyone have tips on how to achieve this? I was thinking I could just wire some of the new chutes that sprout close to the base upward, and from there grow them out, and so on...but I'm not sure if that would be the best way to go. Ideas?

Here are some pictures:







(FYI,these next picture were taken at night, and the leaves were folded up and drooping. This is a characteristic of BRTs and is not due to health issues. The tree is growing very well right now.)




*Edit -- A virt made by lennard on the BonsaiSite forums. Note the bottom branch was only being grown as a sacrifice branch and has been removed.

 
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007

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For starters, can you tell me more about the ground layer that you did? I have a BRT with a less-than-ideal nebari, and you seem to have a great start there.

As for styling, the BRT responds really well to the Clip n' Grow technique. I have never wired mine, and doubt I ever well, but if I had to, I would wire the newest shoots during their first year of growth (while they are still super thin and flexible).

Although you say you need to get away from the flat top, I think the BRT actually looks really great with a wide, flat canopy. I wish I had pics of mine to show you, but its dark now. Maybe tomorrow.

By the way, good luck with that tree in Winter. When I lived in Detroit, my BRT was nearing death every spring after winter indoors. It is much happier here in SoCal
 

Alex DeRuiter

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Thanks 007 :)

Honestly, it was a pretty simple ground layer. I'd only done a couple air layers before, and this was my first ground layer. Just stripped the bark, applied rooting hormone (gel instead of powder), and planted it deep in straight turface. A couple weeks later I was watering some of the turface washed away, and it revealed that mass of roots. It took very well and very fast.

I used the clip n' grow technique, and it's been working well so far. One issue I have with this species is that the new branches tend to overlap others and it gets really messy. I'm still working on sprouting many new branches from the existing larger branches, but I don't think enough time has passed yet for a significant, noticeable change. I'm thinking I might just bas to sprout a couple new branches from the top to attempt a new apex (virt will come later).

I was considering the flat top for a while, but I've been looking at pictures of BRTs with more rounded canopies and they have a very stunning look. Not only that, but I feel like the flat top would give this tree an odd look -- even if it was fuller. That's not to say that the flat top is a bad look, of course. I've seen some very beautiful BRTs with flat tops (what do they call it...Pierneef or something? Acadia? I forget..), it's just that I don't think it would fit with this tree. However, a convincing virt my change my mind. lol

Thanks. lol -- It did very well this winter. It actually pushed out a lot of new growth, and that's a lot considering it was spending so much energy producing those new roots as well. I have it under a large t-5 bulb that I keep on 24/7. Perhaps it was the fact that you were in Detroit...haha :D

Rough virt:

 
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Mike423

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I've had a BRT for a while now and have learned about its normal habits and some good training techniques for it. I have used aluminum training wire on it (as can be seen in the picture) with good results, just don't use wire on newer shoots as they scar easily. I think along with patience the clip and grow method is the best way to shape your tree. Just trim branches in areas you don't want to get any longer and allow growth to push strong and then trim back to form a better branch structure on top. All in all it should be fairly easy to grow a nice dome in a short period of time considering most of the new growth will naturally want to form around the apex of the tree.

The pictures of my tree this March and looks a little sparse since it had undergone intense pruning.
 

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jason biggs

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Hi guys,having never seen a brt before i can't help noticing that the bark + leaf structure look very similar to an exotic tree in S.A-the leopard tree [caesalpinea ferrea].I see that it is also a native of brazil,have any of used it as bonsai material?? I have tried a few + they seem to have all the right moves in all the right places.....By the way ,nice nebari....:cool:
 

Alex DeRuiter

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Mike, nice canopy on that tree -- that's exactly what I'm looking to produce. Would you be able to take a picture of it at night to reveal the branch structure?

I agree that the clip-and-grow method suits this species best. I may resort to wiring just to give a little guidance, but beyond that I plan to stick with how I've been training it. I had a scrap BRT and realized how easily they scar -- I had the wire on for only a couple weeks and it was long enough to leave a significant scrape in the bark. Oh well -- glad it didn't happen on this tree ;-p

Jason, I remember looking up that species before because I thought they looked similar as well. I forget, but does the leopard tree grow thorns like BRTs do?

Thank you ;) I think I was lucky, but maybe I'm just a master of layering already. lol
 

RogueFJ

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Hi Mike,

How do you care for your BRT indoors when the temperature drops?
 

Alex DeRuiter

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Most likely the light from the window won't be sufficient. These trees like full sun when the temperature isn't too hot, so artificial lights are necessary. They can get by without anything too expensive. I have this tree under a big t5 bulb in the winter and it does well. Of course something with more light output would be preferred, but I'm not rich ;-p

As for this tree, I was wondering if anyone could suggest a pot. I was thinking something shallow, and probably something that's either a subtle oval or a rouded-corner rectangle pot. I'm also thinking something with a bluish-green glaze......like this pot: http://cgi.ebay.com/Bonsai-pot-Yama...85383109?pt=Planters_Pots&hash=item43a83d10c5

Thoughts?
 

Mike423

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Axxonn, i can try to get a few pictures of it at night. That being said I really don't have that well of a secondary branch structure on it yet, nerveless a tertiary branch structure.

As to the question about lighting during winter I both keep it in a window (southern exposure) as well as keep it under a 150watt HPS (High Pressure Sodium) light. The light was purchased for around $80 on eBay and has a suggested light coverage of two square feet. One thing I did notice was that if I had moved the tree from a natural light exposure and just used the grow light on its own the leaves didn't open??? Don't know why that is, but needless to say I then kept in the the window/grow light combo because since the leaves weren't opening I don't think it was even absorbing any of the light. The first year I had it it dint do as well as the following which was when I first used the grow light as an extra supplement.
 

Alex DeRuiter

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In regards to the leaves not opening under artificial light, I don't have this problem with fluorescents. The way I have my indoor setup, there is unfortunately little-to-no natural light. To compensate for this, I bought that t5 fixture and keep it running 24/7. The leaves on this tree are always open unless I leave the light off for as little as an hour.

If you can, I'd love to see pictures of the branches even if they're not exactly ramified. I've been trying to imagine how I'm going to achieve the taller canopy, but I looked at the tree the other day and noticed quite a few new sprouts closer to the trunk, so I think this may give me some great options.
 

Mike423

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I tried taking some pictures earlier but I wasn't really able to get a good image of the inside due to the foliage getting in the way. None of them where able to do the inside branching of the tree any justice. The first one is a head-on photo, second is from below and third is the left side of the tree.

The reason for my tree not opening while yours would probably be due to the fact that HPS lights have a different color spectrum that comes off them where the light looks more yellow than the florescent white. While HPS sodium light are more powerful they do have that little downside when concerning trees like BRT's.
 

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4WeirdBooks

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I'm in Detroit!!! (Ok NEAR Detroit) and my BRT does BEST indoors and with no additional light. It is in an East Window and grows gobs of foliage in the winter. I have it outdoors all summer and it just gets by, in the winter I gain a couple inches a month!
Maybe I'm doing something wrong in the summer? But very happy with it inside in the winter ... in fact I wait until June before even bringing it outdoors.
Odd ... no?
This image is from this past winter
 

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007

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Axxonn, i can try to get a few pictures of it at night. That being said I really don't have that well of a secondary branch structure on it yet, nerveless a tertiary branch structure.

As to the question about lighting during winter I both keep it in a window (southern exposure) as well as keep it under a 150watt HPS (High Pressure Sodium) light. The light was purchased for around $80 on eBay and has a suggested light coverage of two square feet. One thing I did notice was that if I had moved the tree from a natural light exposure and just used the grow light on its own the leaves didn't open??? Don't know why that is, but needless to say I then kept in the the window/grow light combo because since the leaves weren't opening I don't think it was even absorbing any of the light. The first year I had it it dint do as well as the following which was when I first used the grow light as an extra supplement.
HPS is most likely the wrong spectrum of light for . . . its far too red. You should get a metal halide instead (but don't just get a MH bulb! It won't work unless the ballast is designed to run both).
 

Alex DeRuiter

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Mike, that would make sense. Is there a particular reason you use the HPS bulbs? I don't know much about the science behind the absorbance of light in leaves and about the color of the light, but do you think that the BRT leaves can even absorb that light? I would assume the answer to that question is "yes," but I'm still unsure. Perhaps you could even couple that HPS light with a small, inexpensive t5 bulb? Just food for thought :)

Those pictures are actually perfect -- it gives me an idea of how it looks under the canopy. I don't really plan on the tree being leafless at all anyway, so the "final" image of the tree may only reveal a little bit of the branch structure -- that's not to say I won't be working towards an attractive structure, but you know what I'm saying...don't you? lol

Rick, no offense with me Detroit comment -- just some friendly bantering. :) I have a somewhat similar response from this BRT, but mine seems to have growth spurts both in winter under the light and one or two in the summer. This is based on my time with the tree, of course, so I've been through one full summer and one full winter. Last summer it had two distinct periods of growth while still sprouting a couple new buds in between. This summer has yielded only one push so far, but I did root prune heavily in mid Spring. Plus there is still much summer left, so we'll see. ;)

As for doing the right thing in the summer, I'm not exactly sure. One thing that caught my eye in your picture is that the leaves look a little shiny. Is that just the picture, or are the leaves glossy like that? If that's how the tree is, I wonder if it's actually a BRT. Does it grow thorns? It could be a leopard tree - caesalpinea ferrea. Here's a link on Jerry Meislik's site on this species.
 

Mike423

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I was thinking the same thing, 4weirdbooks tree has those glossy leaves which I've never seen a BRT have. The bark on the trunk also looks different from the BRT's smooth bark which should be less whitish as well as the masculine trunk features which are lacking.

As for the grow light I have used a HPS bulb to thicken the branches and trunk. The HPS bulb causes longer internode length but longer branching quicker which allows for thicker branches and trunk. The growth 'appears' less healthy but its not. In general hydroponic resources the HPS bulb is meant more for after the plant has nearly completed it vegetative state to induce better flowers and fruit or vegetable crop. However if your more in the refinement stage a Metal Halide light is optimal as it provides the next best thing to real sun light being about 80% of the strength of the real sun in summer. It will also cause more condensed growth with smaller internode length. Hears a informative link if you are looking to get more info on different types of grow lights.

http://homeharvest.com/whichgrowlightisrightforme.htm
 
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sammiboii

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Hey guys,

Here is my RainTree that is being trained in the Pierneef style by Erik Wigert. I'll be bringing it home to NC early next year. Thank you so much for talking about the lights required during the winter. It was a major point of concern for me. I think I'm going to try either a T5 fluorescent or a MH bulb.

Have a great week
Sam

 

Alex DeRuiter

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Beautiful tree, Sam! Thank you for posting it :)

Good luck with the lighting. If you can afford it, metal halide is by far the way to go. T5's are great for a budget, of course, but if you have the money for mh then go for it :D
 

Alex DeRuiter

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FYI, to anyone who wants to buy my tree, I was thinking about listing it on eBay. I figured I can easily get $15,000 for it as it's obviously worth more than that. :D
 
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