I’m interested in working with Jack Pine, mainly because they’re native to where I am here in Michigan. I’ve read that this species is generally much shorter lived that other pines. I’m curious about the lifespan of individual species that are used in Bonsai, and if their lifespan in their native environment has any relation to their longevity when used as bonsai material? I haven’t seen anyone discussing this, and would love to hear people’s opinion about this.
Well Alex, you sent me to my tree books looking up what they said about jack pine (pinus banksiana). Not much there that is already commonly known - medium sized tree growing in poor rocky or sandy soils. One thing I did find interesting was that the jacks live the furthest north of all of the North American pines. This doesn’t address your interesting question regarding the reasons for tree longevity. Bristlecone pines (pinus aristata) are medium or even small pines and grow in poor soils but they are older than dirt. I wonder if elevation plays any role? Good question. I hope someone comes up with answer.
Along with David’s recommendations, let me suggest one more book as a general reference for trees in our area, if you’re interested.
This book has been published and revised since 1913 and its authors were both professors at U of M. I picked up a copy a few months ago and I absolutely love it. As I understand it, this is essentially used as a textbook for classes like field biology and ecology.
Awesome! I’m only about 20 minutest from the southern tip of Ontario. I know the book mentions that although its title says “Michigan”, it’s really for the Great Lakes region in general so it’ll apply to you for sure.
Interested question about the longevity of species used in Bonsai.
The professional community will often refer to the “value” of material, concerning the attributes it has with regards to the particular species. The age of the tree and the amount of time in cultivation in particular, can add gravitas and value. There are also notions of investment in terms of time spent on a tree resulting in added value. Value in the professional community, has to have a monitory reflection, so it makes sense that if you have to put bread on the table, and you are spending time and money training a tree, the greates pay back will come from a species with the potential to outlive us all and exponentially increase in value.
However, in the amateur community (a word derived from “amour” or love), it could be said that we are freer to reflect our natural environment in the trees we grow.
In Europe, birch is a populate species for bonsai, but it is relatively short lived. I have heared that larch is sometimes shunned in Japan due to its short lifespan.
There may be a horticultural argument also, with long lived species responding better to cultivation, but with short lived species growing faster.
As with all things Bonsai, we should ask “What do I want to achieve?” This should begin with the selection of the species we wish to train.
Likewise, Carl! Super into your geology background. It was my favorite science class I ever took, and helped me out a lot going into clay. Great to know there are bonsai nuts around the metro area. I’m based in Ferndale/Detroit. Really wish we had a club there. Just started attending meetings of the Ann Arbor Society.
Thanks so much, David. I’ll have to check these out when I have a second. The elevation question is a really interesting point. I’ve always loved plants, and trees in particular, but I don’t have much of a horticulture background, so this is all pretty new to me. Thanks for the recommendations.
Awesome! Geology is definitely more fun than people think, that’s for sure. What’s funny too is I’ve always wanted to learn how to do pottery. Actually, my wife and I were just saying, probably two weeks ago, how we wanted to take pottery lessons together lol. And two of my best friends live in Ferndale; I’m downriver in Southgate and work out of the Ann Arbor area!
I’ve been considering going to the Ann Arbor Bonsai myself.