What happens if... the top accidentally snaps off in literati?

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So my horticultural practices tell me to never remove needles for a desired branch, or there will be dieback all the way to the trunk (mainly talking about pine/evergreen literati). But I can't help but wonder what would happen if you lose all the branches in a literati-styled tree?

Since so much of the foliage is concentrated at the top, the foliage seem to be in an awfully precarious position. Will the tree just automatically die at this point if the foliage up there is damaged? How do you mitigate risk aside from not trying to mechanically damage the tree? I guess mother-daughter style helps distribute some of that risk, but I can't help wonder for those really sparsely-foliated styled trees.
 

leatherback

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I think it is important to first f all realize that most species of trees will just sprout. Only very few species, mostly, many conifers, will not under normal circumstances sprout. These will then die.
 

Shibui

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There is always risk. Every time we venture outside we are at risk but that rarely stops us from doing so.
Bonsai is the same. Trees can die from many things but that does not stop most of us from trying to grow bonsai.

With regards to the literati musings, or indeed any style tree it will depend on the species as to how they fare after such damage. Some will almost certainly sprout new shoots to stay alive but some species have thrown all their survival strategies at reproduction by seed rather than survival of the individual by new shoots and may not be able to bud from bare wood in which case it's all over for that bonsai.
Even many conifers that are not regarded as good at new buds on bare wood are still able to make emergency buds provided the wood is not too old so it is still possible for some pines to recover from catastrophic damage.

As far as mitigating the risk normal care is all I can suggest. There is no point spoiling a good bonsai design with 'backup shoots' just in case.

I guess if it happened I would be disappointed but put the tree back on the bench, cross fingers and give it 6 months or so to see if it was feeling lucky.
 
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