Those who collect their bonsai from the wild, or someone’s yard, each have an idea of what makes an area ideal for extractions. I’d like to know what makes an area perfect for collecting a particular species, or trees in general. Something where you say “Oh. This is going to be a great spot.”
Here’s my general list with notes on how it applies to my favorite species, bald cypress:
A) A seldom visited area. Especially by bonsai enthusiasts. If you find a spot, keep it secret.
“Hi, Bill. I saw your videos on YouTube and wanted to know what swamp do you use to collect trees.” A year later, he and I are becoming good friends, but he still doesn’t know the location. He, however, has his own swamp, so I taught him how to collect there.
B) An area that promotes the kind of growth that makes a tree look great. Better yet, helps to show off features that makes a species unique.
Bald cypress are known for their buttressed bases. Swamps make the best bald cypress when in the water. Trees on the shore of swamps are noticeably different.
C) Accessibility. If you’re pulling a large tree, you don’t want to die trying to get it back to your truck.
I still thank God that Mitch didn’t keel over in the swamp. He was looking pasty. That was a very big tree. I didn’t want to have to call his wife.
D) Soil that promotes good root growth.
Swamps in North Louisiana have a light brown clay we call “gumbo mud.” The roots are very good. Swamps in South Louisiana grow in organic muck with a layer of blue-gray clay. The roots are well ramified. Bald cypress roots on the shore are noticeably lacking.
E) Soil that is easy to remove from the roots.
Gumbo mud is easy to remove. Organic muck and blue-gray clay is not. I guess I can only have one or the other.
F) No bugs.
Swamps are nice in January and “The Hell of Biting Insects” in July. Bring bug spray if you go.
G) No snakes.
Same timing as above. I wish there was snake spray.
H) No alpha creatures.
Alligators, boars, and coyotes, sure, but stumbling on a stag or elk during rutting season may not be memorable for the right reason.
I) An absence of “No Tresspassing” signs.
There’s a rumor that I had to tell no one in particular they could not go collecting with me to some hypothetical spot because they had a high-level security clearance with an agency that purportedly dealt with very big rockets. Supposedly, I didn’t want to jeopardize their career.
J) Plenty to choose from.
Some swamps have bald cypress everywhere in the right sizes, and others leave you hoping you can find a tree so you don’t go home empty-handed. I have some bad trees that I torture to find out their secrets.
Regrets to Reddit user Stourbug101 who posted the question in Reddit’s Bonsai forum. I think this is an excellent question (given how much collecting I do) and I’d like to explore the topic with Mirai members.