Help Identifying, Slippery Elm Perhaps?

mholt

Mame
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Silver Lake, WI
USDA Zone
5
I spotted this in my hedges this past fall and lost out on the opportunity to dig it this spring. Years of getting whacked by the weed-whip and cut back haphazardly led to some interesting growth. The base is basically just a big ugly burl. The leaves are quite rough on both sides and I pinched off a leaf to see if the petiole was slippery. Not a whole lot of liquid but it did seem a bit slippery. Any ideas whether this is an elm? Thank you.
 

Attachments

DaveG

Mame
Messages
125
Reaction score
0
Location
Victoria, TX
USDA Zone
9a
I'm pretty sure my elm is the same kind, but I've never been 100% sure what kind it is. My best guess is that it's an American elm, but I haven't ruled out the possibility that it could be a slippery elm. Assuming it's the same kind, the worst thing about it will probably be that it really doesn't want to stop having a taproot.

The base of it is really interesting and I'd love to have found it myself. Oddly, since I've worked with that kind of tree, I have a rough idea what I'd do with it.
 

mholt

Mame
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Silver Lake, WI
USDA Zone
5
Thanks DaveG. I might have to dig further but this is about the best I can do right now regarding an identification source: http://www.duke.edu/~cwcook/trees/ulru.html

I've got a bunch of these things popping up...just none other than this one worth digging. The trunks of the young ones are a red-orange. I will have to take note of these guys during the changing of the seasons to see if anything stands out that helps identify.

Do you have to keep yours in a deep container?
 

DaveG

Mame
Messages
125
Reaction score
0
Location
Victoria, TX
USDA Zone
9a
The fact that the trunks are red-orange is really the only thing about this that might raise a red flag and imply that they could be different, as mine tends to lean toward brown and gray. I did notice that coloration in the pictures. Elm species are not the easiest things to tell apart when specimens are small though, so you might just wait to let one get some years on it to see what it looks like. Ultimately though, I would guess which species it is probably doesn't make any difference to your interest in working with it.

Mine is in a fairly standard plastic pot right now, but I don't think I'd hesitate to put it in a shallow pot when it's "finished". It has some time to go before that, if it ever even gets there. I plan to eliminate all but a the soil-line level roots around the nebari and then put it in a bigger container to grow. I want to see sizable roots at soil level on this one. That may turn out to be a mistake, but if it is this is the tree I want to make it on.

I'll tell you what I'd do with this one of yours if it were in my care. I'm still pretty inexperienced with bonsai compared to most of this community though, so you have that warning. If I were in your position, I wouldn't follow this advice unless someone far more experienced backs me on it.

First off, I'd probably remove the tree by layering it instead of digging it up. I'd do it this way because it appears to have a straight section of trunk below the burly part and I can't really see that becoming part of the finished tree. Though, digging it up might be better done first just to get it in a better position to layer it. How to layer it this way is best figured out by someone with more experience than I can lend you. What I'd want would be to get roots coming from the bottom of the gnarled part to form a new nebari. At least the tree should be willing, as there should be dormant buds all over that thing.

As for the top, I'd try to make sure the growth coming directly from that burly trunk is not very straight. It has some straight growth on it now and I'd get rid of that. When it starts popping out with new growth, I'd pinch it off initially after about 2 or 3 leaves as if you're trying to build ramification and keep doing that until it gets about 3 inches of nice crooked growth. Then let it grow as it wants to for a while to thicken the branches. But if it tries to send very much of that new growth anywhere near straight up, I'd direct it more downward very carefully after the branch gets a couple inches long. My experience with my own tree has shown me that, while the new growth is very fragile, redirecting it will take within a week while it's growing fast and the growth of the branch will follow in that general direction as it progresses, even if you're pinching it.

That would take you to a point where it's partway trained. The end goal of this would be to keep it stout and make it look completely gnarly, very old, and maybe almost haunted. The finished tree would be very short and wide. The leaves would probably never reduce enough, but I think it would still look very interesting.

As I was saying though, take that advice with a grain of salt. Still though, now that I've said all that, I think I need to try to find a similar piece of stock to try it on.
 

mholt

Mame
Messages
172
Reaction score
1
Location
Silver Lake, WI
USDA Zone
5
Wow Dave. Thanks for that reply and the amount of time it probably took to type all that up! You are definitely thinking along the same lines as I was regarding the future look of this. It has a 6" base and I can envision it having a nice stout future. Good eye regarding the trunk below the burl section. In fact, this is probably why I haven't attempted digging it. The trunk takes a hard turn back directly underneath a massive hedge and has "lifted" that hedge quite a bit. My best option probably would be to layer it. I don't know what option for layering would yield the most hopeful outcome however. Perhaps ground layer via a tourniquet and surround the layer area with some good soil. It could be and probably is too late in the season for this.
 

DaveG

Mame
Messages
125
Reaction score
0
Location
Victoria, TX
USDA Zone
9a
I was actually figuring it was more like four inches. Six inches is far better, of course.

When I collected mine, I used a plastic pot that had been cut in half except for one side with a hole for the base of the trunk at the bottom. I cut the bark all around the trunk, fixed the pot in place around it, and filled it with soil. A year later, I came back and cut it from its former base, even before the leaves had fallen. I would not recommend such crude methods, as my success rate in doing this was only about 30%, but it did work in the case of that tree. I don't feel a bit guilty about treating this one so harshly though, as there was nothing special about it and it was nothing more than a weed where it was. Yours is a bit more interesting, so I'd recommend being kinder to it and getting advice from someone far more experienced in layering. But the point in sharing this is that elms can be very forgiving.

I will say that I'd probably cover more of that burly part with soil than you want to have roots, possibly the whole thing and just risk that it will grow some roots you can remove one-by-one later. There's no down side, because it should just get gnarlier as a result.

One last piece of advice I have is that if you ever want to force back-budding on a specific stubborn bud on that elm, you can sometimes get it to work by sticking mashed fresh coconut to the bud for a few days when it briefly turns green in the Spring. I need to make a thread about that now that I've remembered.
 
Top Bottom