Need Help Understanding Physiology of Bonsai

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Hello BonsaiNut.com!

I am currently producing a multimedia piece about the science of bonsai trees and have hit a wall. The folks over at the Bonsai subreddit suggest I post here!

Specifically, I am trying to understand if the phytohormones and physiology of bonsai differ from regular trees. I hope to understand biochemical changes in cell, tissue and organ development.

Since this is the most active bonsai community (that I found), I would appreciate if could point me to any research papers, scientists, or other bonsai enthusiasts that I should reach out to about this topic.

Here is the small list of papers that I have already found/read that relate to this topic:

Any other papers about the biochemical response to root-cutting, branch/leaf trimming would also be appreciated!

Here is my post on the /r/Bonsai subreddit and the answers I received.

Thanks in advance! Saheel Mehta

Admins: I hope this request is ok and I am posting in the right thread! Will give thanks to BonsaiNut.com if I use any information from here.
 

sorce

Nonsense Rascal
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Welcome to Crazy!

As brief as it may end up being!

We don't do anything nature can't,

So....

Damn...I hope that my post link wasn't a virus!

Sorce
 

Adair M

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There is nothing different in a bonsai than a non-bonsai of the same species. Cells are the same size. The difference is the height and sometimes the sizes of leaves. So, the difference would be the number of cells.

Bonsai are kept small by pruning and restricting their growth by confining the roots to a small pot. They are NOT starved for water or nutrients.

In fact, take a bonsai out of its pot, plant it in the ground, and it will grow just like a normal tree of its species.
 

ajm55555

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Nature can create bonsai too. Actually that's where the Chinese got their inspiration. If the conditions are tough, like a lot of wind, hot summers and cold winters, the seed fell into a pocket and there's not much soil, etc, a plant will adapt shrinking its leaves, growing slowly and doing everything it can to survive. Then you have a natural bonsai :)
 

Anthony

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Hello Saheel, [ India / Pakistan ?]

Welcome!

Bonsai / Tree Penjing is a hobby, with probably no use to practical agriculture.
Most learn to water, prune, make soils that are water retentive, but freely draining, with a refresh of O2 upon every watering.
The horticultural response is due to pruning at the correct point on the tree / shrub and at the correct time.

There isn't a great deal of science discussion involved as the practice goes, nor a great deal of Art/ Sculpture.

Additionally small leaves, dense branching and fine twigging, may be due to a cultivar [ e.g. Zelkova ] and cultivars are found by observation
of plant responses.

In other words you can get good / exceptional at this hobby / craft by simply just doing.

Have you tried ?
Good Day
Anthony
 
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Thanks all for responding so quickly.

I understand the basic idea that bonsai is functionally just a smaller tree, but some of the journal articles I linked seemed to indicate that stunting causes trees to change morphologically based on biochemical responses. To further clarify, I am looking for cellular pathophysiological or morphological studies. For example, one article points out how jasmonates are released in trimmed trees inhibiting growth. Unfortunately, most of those articles are a decade or two old. Kind of fishing for updates on scientific papers.

Totally understand the dearth of information from an agricultural standpoint, but I figured there would be interest from a business/science perspective on small trees.

Anthony, once I have a good outdoor space I would be more than interested! USA btw.
 

my nellie

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There is a very good book dealing with what you are after, I believe.
It's "Botany for Bonsai - The Science Behind the Art" by Dr. Enrique Castaño de la Serna
 

Bonsai Nut

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I understand the basic idea that bonsai is functionally just a smaller tree, but some of the journal articles I linked seemed to indicate that stunting causes trees to change morphologically based on biochemical responses. To further clarify, I am looking for cellular pathophysiological or morphological studies. For example, one article points out how jasmonates are released in trimmed trees inhibiting growth. Unfortunately, most of those articles are a decade or two old. Kind of fishing for updates on scientific papers.
I would be very interested to know more about this subject as well. I have always thought there was no permanent difference between a bonsai tree and the same tree in nature. For example I can take cuttings off a bonsai tree, root them, and if I plant them in my yard they are indistinguishable from a standard "wild" tree. Similarly, many of the same horticultural practices that are used to create bonsai can be applied to trees in the wild (for example pine candle pruning) and wild trees will respond in the same way bonsai will (in this case by pushing a second growth of smaller, weaker candles with shorter needles). I have thought of bonsai as bonsai in appearance only.

Now it is true that over the years, bonsai has led to the development of plant cultivars particularly suited for use as bonsai - cultivars that naturally have smaller leaves, shorter internodes, grow well in container culture, etc. But this is the case of selecting and cultivating plants that exhibit positive random genetic mutations - versus the plants undergoing pathophysiological changes because they were styled as bonsai.
 

DrBonsai

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To put it very simply, I do not believe that the natural plant physiology is different in Bonsai trees,
However, the Bonsai artist manipulations of the tree via pruning, watering, fertilizing, soil ingredients, potting etc. leads
to physiologic changes that create the appearance of a miniature tree.
It is the Bonsai artist's manipulations of the plant's normal physiology and response to such altered treatment or conditions which then
leads to a response in the plant.
 

MichaelS

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If you look at a very old and mature tree of any species (not one stunted by it's environment) you notice the internodes become very short. Sometimes so short you can hardly see the difference between one year and the next. All they seem to do is just put out a new set of leaves without extending anymore. That is because it has reached the limit of it's potential, the roots no longer extend and have ramified as much as is possible for that species. From then on it's slowly downhill until death. The leaves also are much reduced in size at that point. That is completely natural and irreversible. If we take a cutting from that tree and successfully root it, that new plant is now only as old as the tree took to create it and it has the potential to grow normally as a young tree again. In bonsai we artificially induce this ''age'' by forcing ramification and restricting root extension but it's the actual true age of the tree which dictates it's potential for growth. So I would guess that there is no physiological difference between a bonsai or a tree growing in the ground of the same species and the same age. At least nothing permanent.
 

Rambles

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I would love to see the project on completion
 

augustine

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Check out Arnoldia magazine, a publication from the Arnold Arboretum, online. It has a search feature. I believe there is an article that explores the same issues.
 
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