2008 Trees of the Month

note: our 'Trees of the Month' began in May, 2008)



Common name: Jabily, Elephant Tree

Botanical name: Operculicarya decaryl

Foliage:  Small, shiny green leaves, which turn reddish in winter months. Plants are either male or female (dioecious) and you need one of each to make seeds. Male plants are rarer than the female plants. The trunk is gnarled and somewhat succulent. Jabily is a caudiciform (a plant with a fat trunk).

Flower/ fruit:  Very small dark red flowers in late winter. The inflorescence forms at the end of very short branches and are composed of six or less flowers.

Soil: Use a soil with a good balance of drainage and water retention. It is drought tolerant, but prefers a well drained, evenly moist soil. Jabily will not tolerate soggy soil. 

Fertilizer:  Use a balanced fertilizer (20-20-20).   

Repot: Repot annually, when root bound, during the summer or when night temperatures are above 50°F. 

Prune:    Prune foliage at any time of year. Clip and grow method also works well. 

Propagation:  Easily propagated from tuberous root cuttings. Jabily may also be propagated from stem cuttings using a uniformly moist soil mixture.

Insect/ Disease: Resistant to most diseases and insects. 

Watering: Enjoys evenly moist soil.  Poor drainage will cause root rot.

Light: Full sun to light shade is preferable. 

Training: May be wired or use clip and grow method.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F. 




Common Name:  Texas Ebony
Botanical Name:
Pithecellobium flexicaule, New classification: Ebenopsis ebano, 
Native to Southern Texas and adjacent Mexico.

Stems/Trunks: Gray stems have distinctive zig-zag jointing with many thorns.

Foliage: Tropical evergreen, bipinnate, compound, alternate rounded leaflets.

Flower/Fruit: Small, creamy white to yellow puffball: fragrant, blooms June – August, only if let grown. Elongated pod containing bean shaped reddish seeds, 3-6in long.

Soil: Native soil is neutral to slightly alkaline.

Fertilizer: Use balance 20-20-20

Repot: Minimum night temperature low to mid 70°F.  Unravel roots during repotting. Remove roots judiciously. Might drop leaves after root pruning. Texas Ebony likes to be tight in the pot.

Prune/Train: Suitable for many styles. Top pruning encourages branching on lower limbs. Heavy pruning in spring. Tolerates wiring without incurring damage. Buds break readily on old wood.  Dead wood is extremely hard, ideal for carving.

Propagation: Best grown from seed.

Insect/ Disease: No major pests noted. 

Watering: In nature grows in arid environment. Keep on the dry side during dry season (January to May) to produce flowers. Moderately water in a well-draining soil. 

Light: Full sun best, but will adjust to less light conditions.

Training: Prolific back budding and angular growth aids styling.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.




​Common Name:    White Lead Tree 

Botanical Name:    Leucaena leucocephala

Foliage: This quickly growing invasive plant is found worldwide in tropical regions.  It forms dense thickets, which crowd out native species. Compound leaves of 4-9 pairs have 11-17 leaflets about 1/4” long. In nature the tree is grows a very straight trunk.

Flower/ fruit: Flowers are formed first as tight balls that open into puffy white balls. Blooms can be found year round.  In the wild the tree produces massive amount of seeds. As bonsai tree rarely blooms, because it need frequent foliage pruning.

Soil: Use a soil with a good balance of drainage and water retention. 

Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer. 

Repot: Repot during the summer. It is safe to severe root pruning at least once per year.

Prune: Defoliate and cut back hard in spring. Defoliating will cause big reduction in leaf size. Remove large leaves any time of the year. Clip and grow works well on this fast growing species.

Propagation: Collecting specimens, cuttings and propagation from seeds all work well. Trees grown from seeds can be more easily bent or slanted than collected specimens.

Insect/ Disease: No major pests noted.

Watering: It likes moisture, but will tolerate drying out occasionally.

Light: Morning or full sun.

Training: Suitable for many styles and sizes including small or miniature.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F. Cold sensitive.

Florida Bonsai Summer 2008 Issue
Tropical Green Sheets,
Wikipedia Encyclopedia




Common Name: Pine
Pinus Clausa- Sand Pine, a North American native, is usually seen as a scrubby tree, capable of reaching 100 feet in height, but more often seen 15 to 40 feet tall. The brilliant evergreen leaves, 2 needles in a sheath, are no more than 3 in long. The tree thrives in almost any soil condition. The bark is reddish brown and the trunk is straight and long.
Pinus elliottii-Slash Pine is a native of the southeast United States, from South Carolina to Louisiana and the Florida Keys. It is fast growing, likes humid climates and moist soil. Slash Pine is named after “slashes”: swampy ground overgrown with trees and bushes. It is also known as Yellow Slash Pine, Swamp Pine, and Pitch Pine. Slash Pines are an important source of timber in the U.S. Trees reach 60-100 feet. The bark is orange to purple-brown, irregularly furrowed and cross-checked into irregularly rectangular, papery-scaly plates. The leaves are needle-like, in clusters of two or three, 7-9 in long.

Fertilize every 3 months with weak solution of fish emulsion as well as an occasional acid fertilizer.

From December through February: Pines only need to be repotted every 4 to 5 years. Sand Pine are very sensitive to root pruning; it barely tolerates transplanting. Needles will turn brown, when plant is root bound.

Grows well in fertile sandy mix of half sand and half soil.  pH 5.5-6.5. Pines often produce a white mold (mycorrhizae) in the soil. This is a sign of a healthy tree.?

Collecting is the best way to get a nice trunk. When collecting, get as much sand as possible.

Insect/ Disease:
Red spider mite will turn needles to a grey-green color. South Florida Slash Pine is less susceptible to disease and insects than other varieties.

Water moderately in a well-draining soil. When pines become dry needles will turn brown.

Full sun during winter (November to April), morning sun only during hot summer month.

Some freezing is tolerated but Sand Pine needs to be protected from extreme summer heat. Protect under shade during heat of day.

Thinning out needles has to be done with great care. Remove downward pointing needles, but leave some upward pointing one, so that the branch will develop a “pad” on top. Some owners of Slash Pine like to reduce the length of the needles by shortening them. This is a matter of personal taste. Pruning branches back to internodes can produce back budding. Do not prune branches extensively if the sap is flowing. This weakens the tree and can kill it.  Wire can be used for training branches.

Both Sand and Slash Pines lend itself to formal and informal upright, as well as literati.

USDA Fact Sheet ST-458, Wikipedia, www.conifers.org, Photo on right: Mature stand of Pinus elliotti-Slash Pine. Photo right courtesy of North Carolina State University, 
Bonsai-BCI species guide​​




Common Name:   Desert Cassia
Species:    Cassia polyphylla     Synonym: Senna polyphylla, 

General Description: Desert cassia, also known in Spanish as hediondilla and retama prieta is a shrub or occasionally small tree, 7 to 12 ft tall, native to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This evergreen is slow growing, with a beautiful cascading habit suitable for pot culture and bonsai. The tree is now cultivated as an ornamental and was chosen as plant of the year in 1999 by the Florida Nurserymen & Growers Association. Desert cassia attracts the sulphur family of butterflies.
Multiple stems sprout from the root crown, even in small plants. The bark of older stems is dark gray. Desert Cassia develops a root system with a strong taproot. The twigs are slender, warty, and light green, maturing to brown. The leaves are alternate or clustered, 3 to 5 at nodes. These pinnate compound leaves have an average of 10 leaflets that are 0.4” long. The five-petal, fragrant, yellow flowers, usually grouped in axillary racemes of mostly 2 flowers are about 1.5” across. Some blooming occurs all year but more so from fall to spring. The legume is linear, 8 to 15 cm long, slightly contorted, flattened between the seeds, and dark brown at maturity. The seeds are round, flattened, and dark brown. ?

Feeding: Use a balanced fertilizer every 3 months.  A bloom booster will encourage flowering.

Repotting: Night temperatures low to mid 60°F and above and through the summer.

Soil: pH6.5-7.5. In nature Cassia grows in a wide variety of well-draining soils.

Propagation: Allow seed pods to dry on plants, direct sow in the fall. Growth is very slow. One source suggests woody stem cuttings. Also available as nursery stock, but thicker stems are difficult to obtain.

Insect/Disease: In nature Desert cassia attracts beautiful butterflies, which lay their eggs on the leaves. As a bonsai provide good air circulation as aphids can be a problem on new leaves.

Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil. In nature this tree requires little care and is drought tolerant.

Light: Full sun, but also thrives in shade.

Temperature: As bonsai protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: Stems and branches turn woody quickly.  Wiring should only be used on green wood. Clip and grow method works best to maintain shape. Cassia will tolerate severe top pruning and moderate root pruning. To encourage bloom let branches grow.

Salt: This plant has a high salt tolerance.

Styles: In nature tree has a cascading habit producing multiple stems. As bonsai it is suitable for weeping style.?

Zone: USDA:9B-11

Sources:TopTropicals.com, Pictures toptropicals.com





Common Name: Gumbo Limbo
Species: Bursera simaruba- This large semi-evergreen tree, with an open irregular to rounded crown, can reach 60’ in height with an equal or wider canopy. The trunk and branches are thick and are covered with resinous, smooth, peeling coppery bark. The tree typically develops from two to four large-diameter limbs and its branches tend to droop. In our environment the tree looses almost all its foliage just before the new spring growth comes in. Gumbo Limbo is a native of South Florida as well as all the Caribbean Islands.

Flowers: The leaves are alternate, odd-pinnate compound of 5 leaves per set. The leaves have a peppery smell and when dried was once used in the Caribbean for stomach ailments. In spring the tree is covered with clusters of small green inconspicuous flowers. The fruit is a red oval shaped berry.

Feeding: Regular seasonal feeding schedule with balanced fertilizer should be maintained.

Repotting: Minimum night temperature low to mid 60°F. Repotting can continue through summer.

Soil: In nature the tree will tolerate clay, sand loam, acidic and alkaline. As bonsai any well draining soil with a pH of 6.0 – 7.5 is advisable.

Propagation: Can be grown from seed, but easily grows from cuttings of any size twig or branch.

Insect/ Disease: Free of serious pests and diseases.

Watering: Maintain a regular watering schedule.

Light: Full sun is recommended but will tolerate partial shade.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: Gumbo Limbo tolerates severe root and branch pruning and will bud break on hard wood.  Some die-back will occur. When styled the tree has the tendency to produce one shoot only. To encourage multiple shoots during the growing season remove several internodes and defoliate. New growth will only have 3 leaves per set. As soon as the leaf set grows back to 5, clip back to 3 sets. Keep directional cutting in mind as well. Repeat as needed. Wiring of new growth is best, but keep on eye on scarring. Tie downs work well.

Styles: The attractive part of Gumbo Limbo is its beautiful trunk. Any style that emphasizes the trunk is suitable. Because of its large leaves Gumbo Limbo lends itself to formal and informal upright, as well as literati.

Sources: Tropical Green Sheets, UF/IFAS publication ST104 published Nov 1993​​​​




Common Name: Divi Divi

Species: Caesalpinia coriaria is part of a family of trees and shrubs of mostly tropical and subtropical origin comprising about 150 genera and 2,2oo species. The feathery leaves are stipulate, alternate, and mostly pinnate compound, but may be bi-pinnate or simple. The new growth is copper and pink colored and is the most attractive feature of the tree. The fragrant white or yellow flowers are in racemes. The fruit is usually a flat “S” shaped legume. The trunk is corky with a grayish bark.  

Origin: The Divi Divi tree is native to the Caribbean, North and Central America, and some parts of the United States. In its native Aruba and Curacao the trees are exposed to the prevailing winds. Subsequently all branches and foliage are blown out horizontally pointing in one direction. This has produced an excellent example of a natural windswept style.

Feeding: Fertilize every 3 months with a balanced fertilizer with an occasional boost of phosphate.

Repotting: Repot in late spring when minimum night temperatures have reached low to mid 60°F.

Soil: Use well-draining soil; pH 7.0.

Propagation: Seeds and cuttings work. The tree is readily available in Florida Bonsai nurseries.

Insect/ Disease: Resistant to most pests.

Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil. Will tolerate some dry conditions?

Light: Prefers morning sun to full sun.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

Training/Pruning: The Divi Divi is slow to increase its trunk size. It is advisable to prune top and roots at the same time. The top can be pruned more severely than the roots. Reduce roots over several repottings. As the branches are brittle, wiring needs to be done with care. Clip and grow is a good method. The Divi Divi can be defoliated at least twice during the growing season.

Styles: Suitable for all styles.

Tropical Green Sheets
Bonsai-bci species files




Common Name: Brush Cherry (Stopper) 
Species: Family – Myrtaceae. Eugenia is a large group of plants, some native and some non-native, including evergreen trees and shrubs, some of which have been classified to the genus Syzygium. The dried buds of Eugeniaaromatica (Syzygium aromaticum) become the fragrant herb cloves. Eugenia confusa (Ironwood, Red Stopper) is native to Florida and grows to about 35 feet. Eugenia foetida (Spanish Stopper) is also native and grows to about 15 feet tall. Eugenia Caulifolora: Jaboticaba; E myrtifolia – Syzyfgium paniculatum (Australian);E myrtifolia var. Globulus (S paniculatum) “Teenie Genie” cherry has extremely small leaves.

Foliage: The leaves are dark green, firm and glossy, ovate formed in pairs.

Flower/fruit: In spring and summer Eugenia develops puffy white to cream colored flowers. This is followed by the development of berries that vary in color from yellow to dark red or black. Most varieties have round fruit but some are ribbed like a pumpkin. Some fruit are edible.

Fertilizer: Every two weeks during heavy growth, and every 4-5 weeks in winter. Eugenia likes a slightly acid soil, so the occasional use of a fertilizer such as Miracid™ is recommended.

Repotting:  Every 2 years in spring when minimum night temperature has reached low to mid 60°F; will tolerate vigorous root pruning.  Use basic bonsai soil, or an acid mix like azalea soil.

Prune and Training: Can be pruned back hard, as it is a vigorous grower. Shorten new shoots with 6-8 pairs of leaves to 1-2 pairs. Can be wired while in active growth, but better shaping results are achieved with pruning. Protect the branches, as they scar easily. Leaf pruning can be done in summer on strong plants, but is not generally advised, as better leaf reduction results from timely pruning. Will withstand vigorous root pruning.

Styles: Eugenia is suitable for all styles.

Soil: Use well-draining soil. PH 6.5-7.5

Propagation: By cuttings in summer, seeds in fall, air layering in spring.

Insect/ Disease: Scale, mealy bug, fruit fly, and aphids are common pests but rarely found on healthy plants.

Watering: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil, less in winter but maintain consistent moisture.

Light: Most Eugenia like morning sun to partial shade with protection from the hottest time of year. 

Temperature: Protect below 40°F. 

Sources: USDA Fact Sheet ST-241,  http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/st241, bonsai-bci species files