Stressful bonsai!

bonhe

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This time of the year, I would like to throw this subject out here as a token thanking to everyone who has been helping me in shaping up my ability in this hobby!
1- what is a stressful tree?
2- how is the tree stressed?
3- how to recognize the tree is in stress?
4- is there any stress meter for the tree?
This one is one of my large projects.
Thanks again
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jaco94

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1- 2: Unexpected event that will cause the tree to come out of its usual comfort zone, this can happen in its natural environment (broken branch, weather ...) or during bonsai cultivation (repotting, tying, ... )

3 -4: Depending on the intensity of the stress, there may be a change in the appearance of the tree (loss of leaves, browning of the needles ...)
If the stress is repeated several times without the tree having been able to rest, the tree may stagnate, stop growing or die.
If the stress is not too intense, the tree will take the shock and then resume its growth (resilience).
All this therefore depends on the intensity of the stress and especially on the vigor in which the tree is before the stress.

A slight stress can be fatal to an already weakened tree, but a tree in perfect health will be able to withstand big stress and survive.
 

0soyoung

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Stress is a generic label for something-is-not-right-but-I-have-no-idea-what-exactly.

For example,
"What is wrong with my tree?"
"It is stressed."

It is much like saying the tree 'sends energy' which simply means something like I-see-what-is-happening-but-I-have-no-idea-why-it-happens.

For example,
"Why is the top of the tree growing more than the rest of it?"
"The tree is sending all its energy there"
"Oh, look. The low branches look stressed"



If you were to list descriptions of the state of trees in which you consider it to be stressed, I would be interested in participating.
 

LittleDingus

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This time of the year, I would like to throw this subject out here as a token thanking to everyone who has been helping me in shaping up my ability in this hobby!
1- what is a stressful tree?
2- how is the tree stressed?
3- how to recognize the tree is in stress?
4- is there any stress meter for the tree?
This one is one of my large projects.
Thanks again
Thụ Thoại

1) I find BRTs very stressful...always dropping leaves because you looked at them funny. My lime tree is currently causing me a lot of stress...it's having a hissy fit about being brought in for the winter. I have a dawn redwood that went through an unintended drought late in the season that I'm worried won't wake up next spring now...

...oh wait...this is not about how bonsai is stressful to _me_! My bad...
 

Wires_Guy_wires

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1. For me, a stressed tree is a tree that is not sure what it should do. It puts survival as a top priority, instead of equalized growth output it looks like it's making random decisions. It's making more hormones than it regularly should make because there's something wrong, or it's producing molecules that serve a protective function even though the conditions don't require those kind of protections.
2. Infections, water issues, pH issues, drainage issues, chemicals, human interaction.
3. I recognize stress from observation: is it drinking well? How does the foliage look? Are there signs I know about, with a known cause? Does it smell OK? In other words: if a tree suddenly changes behavior, it's worth investigating.
4. Yes. See below.

In the past 15 years I've learned to "read" foliage. Leafs tell us what is happening. It seems that there is a universal system in plants, because many of the signals overlap between species. I think this is because all plants work on the same principles. With trees however, we have to stick to the seasons as well. A pine with some yellow needles in autumn is logical; it's dropping the old needles. It helps to question if something is caused by weather conditions, or by human interaction, or if it happens randomly.

- In pines it's foliage color and type of foliage, if it's juvenile foliage and the tree is older than 3 years, than the tree is stressed. Yellow foliage happens with soil issues; often too wet. Brown = dead foliage, was too dry at some point. Purple = cold response OR soil too wet. No buds formed and random(!) needles in this year shoots going brown = water shortage during summer. Overall 'light green', possible micronutrient deficiency which can be tackled all at once by giving micronutrients. If certain branches go brown entirely, it's most often a root issue on one side of the container. Juvenile foliage on adult trees: too much pruning.
- In junipers it's foliage color and type of foliage too. Juvenile foliage happens when it's stressed, sometimes pruning, sometimes a lack of light, almost never root problems. If the tips die, water/soil issues. If entire parts go purple, it's sap flow issues or cold response, check the temperature and the wiring. If they turn from green to golden brown, cold response. If the foliage dries up and goes crispy while staying green, it's due to the roots being shut down either from damage (pruning, or some other thing that kills roots) or drought.

In general for conifers: lack of growth usually means root issues. If the tree has been transplanted this year, it can stall for a year if the root damage is substantial.

Special about larches: can drop all of their needles if it's been too hot and/or too dry. If this is the case, they skip a yellow phase and go brown/purple/green. Try again next year. Happened to me twice. Too much shade will cause something similar to happen on some branches, but the progression is slower (weeks/months instead of days).

In deciduous it's harder to tell, I don't own many deciduous trees but in general:
See tomato guidelines for foliage diagnostics.

For the people using biocides: if a tree is giving off mixed signals and you've been using a lot of biocides in the past two months, check the label of your biocide and see if you used it according to the label. Some antibiotics screw up the internal workings of a plant if they're dosed too heavily.

For the people with a good nose: a healthy soil should smell like a forest or rocky area after a rain shower, not long after watering. Or it should smell like the bag your soil came in. If it smells like farmland or 'muddy' the soil has been wet for too long. Take fertilisation into account of course.. If you just threw a bunch of poop in there, it's going to smell like poop.

I'm always open for corrections or discussion. I posted my own observations, feel free to take it from here.
 

LittleDingus

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1. For me, a stressed tree is a tree that is not sure what it should do. It puts survival as a top priority, instead of equalized growth output it looks like it's making random decisions. It's making more hormones than it regularly should make because there's something wrong, or it's producing molecules that serve a protective function even though the conditions don't require those kind of protections.

I think there's a context missing here. In order to define "stress" one must define "normal". Temperate trees are "stressed" going into winter...but we consider that "normal" because that stress is putting them into a state where they can survive the natural cycle.

Not all "stress" is bad. Christmas cacti and even pointsettias bloom around Christmas because growers intentionally "stress" them to signal they should flower at a time when sales are high :)

We intentional "stress" bonsai to trigger a defensive reaction to that stress that is favorable to us. The tree doesn't want it's branches pruned...it spent a ton of energy growing them! But, but selective pruning we end up with a more attractive and sometimes healthy tree.
 

bonhe

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1- 2: Unexpected event that will cause the tree to come out of its usual comfort zone, this can happen in its natural environment (broken branch, weather ...) or during bonsai cultivation (repotting, tying, ... )

3 -4: Depending on the intensity of the stress, there may be a change in the appearance of the tree (loss of leaves, browning of the needles ...)
If the stress is repeated several times without the tree having been able to rest, the tree may stagnate, stop growing or die.
If the stress is not too intense, the tree will take the shock and then resume its growth (resilience).
All this therefore depends on the intensity of the stress and especially on the vigor in which the tree is before the stress.

A slight stress can be fatal to an already weakened tree, but a tree in perfect health will be able to withstand big stress and survive.
Thank you everyone for responding. I agree with all of you, but I like Jaco94's answer more :). Yes, the tree gets stress when some things from outside causes the tree comes out of its homeostasis. If the stress just temporary such as the pruning, bending or repotting, the tree will have transient response to these and it will back to its homeostasis if the tree was healthy before, otherwise, the tree's health can go downhill!

In this subject, I like to discuss about the real " stress meter" to estimate how we plan for our approach to our bonsai. I checked on the web, I could not find out any meter for bonsai user. Because of that, I created a "stress meter" which helped me a lot so far. As you may already know, I am living in the super hot and dry area for years, but my bonsai looks very happy I think :). I am able to grow Ume, Chojubai quince that are hard to grow in my area.
To build up "stress meter", I paid attention to leaves-trunk-rootage axis of the tree because whatever we act on this axis, the tree is compromised. I am looking for more discussion from you. Sorry, my time is very tight, so, please just post here and I will write more details probably over the weekend. Thank you very much.
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bonhe

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If you were to list descriptions of the state of trees in which you consider it to be stressed, I would be interested in participating.
Sorry, I just want to talk about it in general ! ;)
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River's Edge

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Stress is often a necessary precursor to creating a desired response in Bonsai. Therefore a positive step!
eg. pruning hard to encourage bud back! Wiring to change direction causing stress, micro fractures to cause thickening and stability in the new position. Defoliation to cause a second flush of leaves and subsequently refined appearance!
In short, the essence of refinement!
 

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