Yamadori hunting - basic toolset?

Do you think you will be primarily looking for trees growing on the rock or digging them up from the field?

Good question!

Field, definitely.

So this depends heavily on specifics that we don’t have, but here is a list of things I might bring with me when collecting from non-mountainous areas.

A lot of this might not be necessary, but I still bring most of this when I go must be the boyscout in me…

Round-nosed shovel
Drain Spade
Pry bar (depending on ability to carry this in, better for Urbandori. Easy to get under the tree to ‘pry’ it loose
Hand Pruners (Shears or whatever you call them)
Foldable Pruning Saw
Sawsall with battery if available
Root Cutters (bonsai type ones)
Pickaxe (I’ve used this to dig smaller trenches in some HARD ground before, saved me hours)
Some type of tough chopstick you use for repotting. I’ve used this as well with delicate dirt that isn’t fantastic mountain dirt and I was able to dig a much bigger rootball than needed (or than I could carry) and slowly reduced it until I hit fine roots and was able to carry the tree.

For transportation:
Newspaper/Sphagnum Moss/ Something to keep the roots wet
Burlap/Plastic trash bag/Black trash bag/etc.
Something to tie up or secure the wrapping: Twine, Rope, String, Packing Tape, Saran Wrap
Some way to carry it out. I’ve only collected near where my car could get, so I haven’t had to backpack trees out before, but make sure you have good plans for this.

Water to keep the rootball wet and roots moist
Spray bottle to do the wetting

I think this is mostly all of it.


Thank you so much – that was very helpful! I’m collecting from a non-mountainous area that’s been identified to me as “primarily a pine forest.”

Building my pack now…!

Need water to keep hydrated as you hunt, dig, rest, dig some more, wrap roots, and trek back to your vehicle with a tree strapped to your back, or carried in a folding cart if you have one.
My friends that collect tell me that keeping hydrated is important. Especially if you are at altitude.
Good hunting! :evergreen_tree:

This thread has my list and some others. Happy hunting.

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If you are on dry, walking terrain a folding cart can be a big help to you and your back. You can find them anywhere for about $60. I nabbed one off craigslist for $20. Comes in handy as a yard cart too.

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I prefer a two wheel hand truck with big wheels to move over and around obstruction like rock and fallen trees.
Also, you need to have a first aid kit in case you have an injury. I like disposable heavy duty gloves and good canvas or leather gloves to protect your hands and ease of cleaning up before entering your Escalade or Enclave!
Be safe… have fun!

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Not a tool per se, but a tip that was given by a long time member of BSOD at our last meeting in regard to our upcoming dig.
"Most people don’t look low enough."
The member went on to say you must really get down and move the grasses and often the soil to find what is truly the tree you are going to dig. Sure you are looking at the lowest foot of the tree as you walk a field for something to catch your interest, but you must look lower still.


For Conifers:

Long crowbar
Pruning Saw
Heavy duty garbage bags
Electrical Tape
ACR ResQlink (my wife makes me bring this because I collect conifers in some treacherous spots)

For Oaks:

Trenching Shovel
Heavy duty garbage bags
Hackzall with fresh blades

For Vine Maple:


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Headed out tomorrow - wish me luck…!

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DANG it is not easy to collect in solid clay.

Will report on material if it survives!


Curious about your dig. How was it? Did you enjoy it? Was it what you thought? What did you find? Dig? Did you have the tools needed?
My restless mind needs an update!! :smiley:


Happy to provide! :smiley:

The digging team was me, my wife, my partner, and our Cavapoo (who did no digging but enjoyed the fresh air). The dig site was 2.5 hours away; we took our Prius sedan hatchback, e.g. our largest vehicle, and assumed we’d be bringing home short/compact material.

We expected to spend 5 hours driving, 1.5 hours looking, and 1.5 hours digging. We ended up spending an extra 4 hours on digging and aftercare; we left the house at 8:30 AM and didn’t do our final soak of the material until 8:30 PM.


  • It was a perfect day for bonsai: it had recently rained, it was overcast but not rainy, it was ~60F, and the bugs weren’t awake yet.
  • We had exactly the tools we needed for extraction: sharp round-nosed shovel, pickaxe, saws.
  • We found more material than we expected; I guessed it was 50/50 that we’d find anything we liked, but we found two American elms and an American beech that we liked – which was way more than we could take: see below.


  • We didn’t bring a handcart. We should have brought a handcart. The material we collected weighted 68 pounds, most of it solid clay. It was not fun to carry 68 pounds of solid clay uphill through a forest.
  • It took a LOT longer to get the material out of the ground than I expected. Again: solid clay.
  • We brought paper towels to wrap the rootball in. Paper towels tear easily. We should’ve brought a sheet.
  • Our eyes were bigger than our car/hands. We identified three pieces of material, but given space and time constraints, we only took one – but we started trenching two. (We refilled the trench, but it was a waste of time and we definitely cut some roots. Whoops.)


One piece of material. We think it’s an American elm based on the bark, that it’s deciduous, and where it was found.

It’s about 18" tall with ~4" nebari.

The attraction was the strength of the big root stage right and the curve between it and the trunk. I think we’ll eventually end up reducing the material to roughly where the deadwood branch is about 12" up. We might also end up wedge cutting it in the middle of that trunk portion so it curves more dramatically stage left. But it’s early days, and who knows if it’ll survive. :slight_smile:

Another shot of the nebari. From this angle and the side angle pictured above, they look really strong and good – but from all other angles, there clearly aren’t big roots on the opposite side. Clever positioning plus branch balancing required in future years to stop it from looking like it’s falling over.


General feelings: it was one of the best days I’ve had in months, and I’d love to go back again! For me, as a person who is fundamentally an indoor cat, this is the ideal way to experience wild nature: with my family, for a specific purpose, and in the end, it’s like shopping at a thrift store for bonsai: sometimes, you get to take something wonderful home!

But maybe not on clay soil. Maybe never again on clay soil. :wink:

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Great looking tree! Love the nebari.

It seems most of the prolific collectors go for getting trees from rock pockets, rather than from the field for this reason, more or less.


FYI, I’ve heard deciduous yamadori can be fickle. Here is an interesting write-up from Tony Tickle in the UK


…huh! Well, that doesn’t significantly resemble what we did, esp. given we tried to keep the rootball as intact as possible. We’ll see how it goes, but maybe we’ll clear more of that crud out next time.

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Yeah I dunno. Never done it personally. Just read it and thought it was an interesting approach. And Tony definitely has lots of nice collected deciduous trees.

Any guesses on how long until this tree will show whether it initially survived collection?

How will it do that (new buds pushing?)

How long until I’m reasonably sure until I’m out of the woods?


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