hard vs. soft wood

bonsai barry

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Jason posted a question regarding deadwood on a maple. Some of the responses generated this question in my mind. I didn't want to hijack the thread so I'm posting here:

This comment brings up a question. Why is it that in bonsai, maple is considered "soft" and pine is durable, but in the lumber industry it is the other way around, maple is a hardwood and pine is a soft wood.
 

Smoke

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Jason posted a question regarding deadwood on a maple. Some of the responses generated this question in my mind. I didn't want to hijack the thread so I'm posting here:

This comment brings up a question. Why is it that in bonsai, maple is considered "soft" and pine is durable, but in the lumber industry it is the other way around, maple is a hardwood and pine is a soft wood.

Funny you should ask. I was just getting ready to respond in the trident maple thread where Rock mentioned maple wood not being durable. Hardwood from diciduous trees is as much as ten times stronger and harder than wood from coniferous trees. The difference being in the sap in the conifer wood. This makes it much more impervious to moisture and insects. Diciduous hardwood trees do not have as much resionous sap as conifers. While diciduous trees have sap too, theirs is sugar based and much more soluable to water while conifers contain many more esthers allowing them to protect the wood for much longer than there diciduous counterparts.

With correct countermeasures maple wood will last as long as a conifer anyday. In fact, maple is one of the hardest hardwoods there is. Hardrock maple, not sugar maples.
 
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rockm

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Don't know how many maples you've seen with deadwood in the forest, but the maples here don't hold dead wood very long--rock, sugar, red, whatever. While the local pines hold deadwood quite readily.

Maple wood may be durable indoors when you're building furniture, cabinets and moldings, but outdoors in the weather, it ain't so much. Wetter humid environments in eastern "hardwood" forests prevent deadwood from lasting very long. Even oak, which is one of the hardest hardwoods rots pretty readily too.

It may be durable, but on a deciduous bonsai, stark white deadwood jins and the like look rather odd, as they aren't really part of reality -- at least here--your mileage may vary.
 

greerhw

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No problem with pines ever, junipers however will rot at the soil line and need to be treated with hardner. If you're working with "D" trees, good luck.........:p

With all respect,
Harry
 

Smoke

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Don't know how many maples you've seen with deadwood in the forest, but the maples here don't hold dead wood very long--rock, sugar, red, whatever. While the local pines hold deadwood quite readily.

Maple wood may be durable indoors when you're building furniture, cabinets and moldings, but outdoors in the weather, it ain't so much. Wetter humid environments in eastern "hardwood" forests prevent deadwood from lasting very long. Even oak, which is one of the hardest hardwoods rots pretty readily too.

It may be durable, but on a deciduous bonsai, stark white deadwood jins and the like look rather odd, as they aren't really part of reality -- at least here--your mileage may vary.

All wood rots with moisture. Why they call it dry rot I will never know. All wood requires countermeasures. Wood hardner, epoxy, lime sulphur, etc., etc. Anyone keeping bonsai that gets watered everyday without treating deadwood will be soon keeping rotton wood be it juniper or maple.

We have plenty of oaks around here also, as well as alder, linden, madrone all containing deadwood and all containing rotton deadwood. Of course if they had more pitch, they might last longer unprotected but would be useless as a building wood for the cabinet trade like their conifer counterparts. I still maintain that given the correct measures it is possible to keep deadwood on diciduous trees free from rotting as any other tree we keep as bonsai. We have the luxery of controlling the moisture as well as where we water the tree. Watering the trunk everyday on the deadwood would probably not be a smart thing to do. Of course it would not be very wise to do this on conifers as well. Moss is the number one killer of deadwood in all of bonsai.

No problem with pines ever, junipers however will rot at the soil line and need to be treated with hardner. If you're working with "D" trees, good luck.........:p

With all respect,
Harry

I'll take juniper wood over pine any day. Pines are so soft you can rot one out in two seasons. Especially at the soil line. Why you got deadwood at the soil line Harry?
 

rockm

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"I still maintain that given the correct measures it is possible to keep deadwood on diciduous trees free from rotting as any other tree we keep as bonsai. We have the luxery of controlling the moisture as well as where we water the tree. Watering the trunk everyday on the deadwood would probably not be a smart thing to do. Of course it would not be very wise to do this on conifers as well. Moss is the number one killer of deadwood in all of bonsai."

I actually have quite a bit of deadwood on my Amur maples. If you have amurs, deadwood comes wiht the territory. They die back with heavy pruning. That means an ever-shifting design process as dedwod melts away over the years.

One of mine is completely hollow-- another has significant self-imposed shari. I haven't treated either with anything and I don't plan to. Stark white deadwood on maples is jarring. It doesn't happen in my local environment. Deadwood on decidous in ground trees around here is usually blackish grey, or brown stained with algae and moss and sometimes mushy and wormeaten. If you want deadwood on a maple don't aim for the pristine, alpine white spires and snags you see on conifers...

For may maples, I let nature take its course. Maples heal pretty quickly, or they don't. Adding lime sulphur and preservatives can actually be a bad thing, but I'll get to that later.

Controlling moisture on bonsai in my neck of the woods it is a pipedream. Moss is not a significant problem. It is easily removed. The problem here in the East and South is water. From the rain in the spring, summer thunderstorms and fall storms (ever try to keep a tree dry in a heavy Nor'easter or worse-- a hurricane?), to the snow and clinging ice load in the winter-- deadwood faces alot of uncontrolled moisture in these parts. Add in summer humidity that prevents stuff from drying effectively for six months and you get rot--a lot of rot.

I have tried lime sulphur, minwax wood hardener, etc. on maple deadwood. Usually such treated wood becomes a hard shell of funny looking plasticized white wood over a mushy rotted shell of decomposed wood underneath. Using wood hardener can actually accelerate the decay process by trapping moisture underneath the hardened wood. It doesn't stop moisture penetration in a lot of cases, from seeping in from other directions, though. The process can take five or six years, but it's inexorable on maples. There are other deciduous and broad leaved trees that don't rot very fast, though.

Boxwood is one. Black cherry (prunus resinosa) too--primarily because it has high resin content like conifers do. It does, however, attract borers, which home in on the scent of deadwood on trees.
 

bonsai barry

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Boxwood is one. Black cherry (prunus resinosa) too--primarily because it has high resin content like conifers do. It does, however, attract borers, which home in on the scent of deadwood on trees.

I've noticed this web site attracks some borers, too. Mighty boring.
 

greerhw

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All wood rots with moisture. Why they call it dry rot I will never know. All wood requires countermeasures. Wood hardner, epoxy, lime sulphur, etc., etc. Anyone keeping bonsai that gets watered everyday without treating deadwood will be soon keeping rotton wood be it juniper or maple.

We have plenty of oaks around here also, as well as alder, linden, madrone all containing deadwood and all containing rotton deadwood. Of course if they had more pitch, they might last longer unprotected but would be useless as a building wood for the cabinet trade like their conifer counterparts. I still maintain that given the correct measures it is possible to keep deadwood on diciduous trees free from rotting as any other tree we keep as bonsai. We have the luxery of controlling the moisture as well as where we water the tree. Watering the trunk everyday on the deadwood would probably not be a smart thing to do. Of course it would not be very wise to do this on conifers as well. Moss is the number one killer of deadwood in all of bonsai.



I'll take juniper wood over pine any day. Pines are so soft you can rot one out in two seasons. Especially at the soil line. Why you got deadwood at the soil line Harry?

It was there when I bought the trees, but I stopped it in it's tracks !!

Harry
 

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