Species for Bonsai Material Part 1

Bonsai is a dwarfed tree growing in a tray or a pot. “Bon” means tray or pot in Japanese; “sai” means to plant; therefore bonsai means literally planted in a tray. It is an art of dwarfing trees or plants and developing them into an aesthetically appearing shape by growing pruning and training them in a container according to a prescribed technique. Bonsai are not special plants but rather ordinary plants grown in a special way.

A bonsai “tree” can be made of almost any woody plant material, including trees, shrubs or vines. Species with small leaves and are tolerant to heavy pruning are considered desirable as bonsai material. Bonsai-making is an interesting hobby or even a profession. For plant propagators/gardeners it may be an additional source of income aside from the personal satisfaction they experience.

For in this issue of RISE, we are providing you important information on the species popularly used as bonsai material. – Celso P. Diaz

1. Bantigi

Common name: Bantigi Local names: Ngirad (Ilocos Norte); kulasi (Rizal); bantigi (Tayabas, Cebu); legad (Palawan, Zamboanga, Sulu) Scientific name: Pemphis acidula Forster Family: Lythraceae

Description: An evergreen shrub or small tree up to 10 m tall or more; bole is often short and crooked, up to 20 (-40) cm in diameter; bark surface becomes deeply fissured with age and flakes into long strips, light grey to dark grey-brown. Wood is hard, twigs are angular. Leaves are simple, opposite, fleshy, silky haired. Flowers with axillary petals are white, and clawed. Fruits are in capsule. Seed has thick marginal wings.

Distribution: Pemphis is a monotypic genus occurring along the shores of East Africa and Madagascar to Sri Lanka, India, Burma (Myanmar), Indo-China, China, the Ryukyu Island, Taiwan, Thailand, throughout the Malesian region, northern Australia and the Pacific east to Fuji, Tonga and Pitcain Island. Indigenous to Indo-Malaya and Polynesia.

Uses: P. acidula is planted as ornamental and bonsai. In the Philippines, living plants are harvested together with the rocky substrate and are exported to Taiwan where it is used in rock gardens. In Indonesia, it is planted as cover crop in forest plantations. The wood is used as house posts, fence posts, tool handles, walking sticks, kris handles and sheaths, novelties, domestic implements, turnery, anchor, boat nails and pestles. The leaves can be eaten raw as salad.

Habitat: P. acidula occurs in areas disturbed by man. The trees are scattered in lowland forests, open mangrove vegetation, along seashores and monsoon forests.It is uncommon but may be locally gregarious.

Environmental Requirements: In the Philippines, P. acidula usually grows in corallino rocks and on limestone boulders.

Propagation: Through seeds.

2. Batulinao, Ebony

Common name: Batulinao, Ebony Scientific name: Diospyros ferrea (Willd.) Bakh. Family: Ebenaceae

Description: A small-sized tree seldom reaching a diameter of 40 cm; stem is seldom straight, fluted, short, attaining a height of 5 m; leaves are elliptic or obovate, often notched at the tip. Inflorescence is axillary, with 1-3 white or pale yellow flowers. Fruits turn from red orange to purple when mature.

Distribution: D. ferrea grows in most areas of Western Visayas or Region VII. It is naturally growing in the provinces of Eastern Samar particularly in Borongan, Guian and Catarman. The species was also sighted occurring in Inopacan, Leyte.

Uses: D. ferrea is planted as ornamental and as bonsai. The wood is used in the manufacturE of furniture, cabinet, inlaying eaves, tool handles, fingerboards and key of guitars and violins, drawing instrument, shuttles, bobbins, spindles and novelty products.

Habitat: The trees grows along rocky seashores and back of mangrove swamps and in some areas extending inland on dry slopes.

Phenology: In Guian, Eastern Samar, flowering starts in April, seed collection is from July to August. Propagation: Propagation is through seed.

Seed Germination: Soak seeds in tap water for 12 hours before sowing. Sow in any of the following media: (1) sand, (2) ordinary garden soil, and (3) 1:1 mixture of sand and ordinary garden soil.  3. Kalios Common name: Kalios Local names: Aludig (Ilk.); ampas (Pampanga); bagtak (P. Bis); balangiking (Ibn.); buntatai (P. Bis.); kagasaka (Lbn.); kakadli (Tag.); kalios (Tag.); kallos (Ibn.); lampataki (Tagn.) Scientific name: Streblus asper Lour. Family: Moraceae Description An evergreen shrub, small to medium-sized tree up to 15 to 30 m tall. Bole is often irregular, fluted, with many branches, without distinct buttresses.

Bark surface is smooth, gray; inner bark is yellowish or whitish, with latex. Crown is compact, and dense. Leaves are simple, oblong-ovate, arranged spirally. Leaf surface is rough, dark, shiny green. Male flowers are in small, short-peduncled heads, up to 7 cm in diameter, greenish yellow to white. Female flowers are in pairs and green, enclosing the fruit. Fruit is ovoid, 8-10 mm long, and pale yellow. Pericarp is soft and fleshy. Seed is ovoid, 5 – 6 mm long.

Distribution: Indigenous in India, China, Malaya and the Philippines. Uses:

  • The tree is grown as bonsai and ornamental. In Indonesia, it has been grown as cover crop in forest plantations.
  • The wood of S. asper is good for construction.
  • The rough leaves are utilized for cleaning cooking utensils and as substitute for sandpaper, while the old leaves are used to polish ivory. In India and Indo-China, young leaves are fed to cattle.
  • In Malaysia, leaf extract is used to make milk coagulate with a texture similar to that of yoghurt. Leaves can be eaten raw as salad.
  • S. asper is a well known medicinal plant. Its bark is traded as medicine to treat leprosy, piles, diarrhea, dysentery and elephantiasis. Bark decoction is used for disinfecting wounds; in India it is used to reduce fever. It is also used internally for the skin disease called “culebra”. The bark is chewed as an antidote in snake poisoning. The bark of S. asper contains glucosides with anti-cancer, antimalarial and cardiac activity. In Thailand, the bark is also used to manufacture paper, while in Indo-China, it is used for rope and rough clothing.
  • In India, the latex is put on sore heels and chapped hands, and on grandular swellings. The Annamites apply the latex on their temples for neuralgia or as sedative. Ripe fruits of S. asper can be eaten raw or boiled.
  • Roots decoction are used in epilepsy, inflammatory swellings and applied to boils. In powder form, being given for dysentery, and a poultice applied ulcers.
  • Seeds are beneficial in epistaxes, piles and diarrhea.
  • The juice is used as astringent and antiseptic.

Habitat: The tree is common in open and lowland forests, in thickets and open vegetation and in monsoon and limestone forest; it also occurs in areas disturbed by man. In the Philippines, it is common in regions subjected to a long dry season.

Environmental requirements: Elevation is from low to medium altitudes.

Propagation: Propagation is through seeds and cuttings. Cuttings transplanted in Carranglan show considerable degree of tolerance to open and drought conditions. It has the ability to coppice.

Dispersal: The seeds of S. asper are dispersed by white ants which drag them into their nests, where they often germinate.


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