Common Name:    Bahama Berry, Mounjean Tea, Pineapple Verbena

Species: Nashia inauguensis – is a relative of the Verbena and a native to the Bahamas, in particular, the island of Inagua. A loose shrub with informal branching it reaches approximately 7’ high. It grows along rocky outcroppings semi-protected from strong ocean winds. The bark becomes interesting with age. The trunk when mature is approximately 3 – 4” in diameter. Bahama Berry is also known as Mounjean Tea, because a decoction of the fragrant leaves, variously described as having the scent and flavor of citrus, vanilla, or pineapple is used as an herbal tea.

Bark/Foliage: Bahama Berry has a naturally flaky bark, which can be removed with a soft brush, showing off a smooth yellowish bark that is quite beautiful. Do not use vinegar. The tiny, shiny leaves have a citrusy smell, with close. The leaves are opposite (or fascicled), elliptic to obovate or spatulate, 5-10 mm long

Flower/ fruit: The Bahama Berry develops fragrant white or cream colored tiny flowers, which form clusters. The flowers attract nectar seekers and pollinators, in particular the Atala butterfly. Each flower is only 2 mm in diameter. The berries that follow are reddish orange.

Fertilizer: When new spring growth appears use a balanced fertilizer weekly continuing throughout the summer. During the winter month reduce fertilizer to once a month.

Repotting: Can be done when night temperatures are low to mid 60F. Repot young trees (up to 10 years) every other year, older trees every 3-4 years. During the spring and early summer the roots can be sawed off without attempting to comb them out. Prune roots moderately.

Prune/Training: To develop the foliage, clip and grow is best. The branches are somewhat brittle, but can be wired with care. Branches grow long and fast creating long internodes. Once the initial trunk and branches are established trim frequently to keep its shape.

Soil: Tolerates slightly acidic to alkaline soils. pH 7.0. Do not use soil that dries out quickly.

Propagation: Cuttings and air layering during spring and summer.

Insect/ Disease: Mealy bugs underneath the bark need to be removed with tweezers. Scale can also be a problem. Spray with non-toxic insect spray or soap solution. Soaps should be rinsed off the next day.

Watering: Never allow to dry out, keep evenly moist. Bahama Berry is also called “I dry-I die” and likes high humidity.

Light: Does best with full sunshine.

Styles: Suitable for shohin or mame size, informal upright, as well as literati.

Temperature: Protect below 45°F. Cold sensitive.

For more information: 





Common Name:    Bottle Brush, Lemon Bottlebrush, Red Bottlebrush, Weeping Bottlebrush

Botanical Name:
Callistemonis an evergreen shrub or tree native to Australia, commonly known as Bottle Brush because of their cylindrical, brush-like flower spike. The textured gray bark gives the appearance of an old tree even on a 3 to 4 year old bonsai.
Callistemon citrinus – In Australia this is the more popular variety for bonsai.  This dwarf version of the Bottlebrush only grows to a height of 4 to 10’. The lance shaped, dark green leaves are 2 to 4” long.  The leaf arrangement is alternate. The flower spikes are 2 ? to 4” long and 1 ? to 3” in diameter. The leaves when crushed smell like citrus.
Callistemon viminalis – Weeping Bottlebrush has pendulous foliage and is widely used in South Florida landscaping where it reaches a height of approximately 15 to 20’. As the trunk is slow to thicken it is good to start off with a nice size trunk. The flower spikes and leaves are slightly larger than citrinus and have a silvery green color.

Flower/ fruit:
The bright red flowers appearing between spring and fall are actually long spikes of tiny flowers with very long stamens. They are irresistible to hummingbirds. The flowers are followed by a profusion of triple celled, rounded, woody seed capsules. These capsules will last for years.

Likes moist but well draining soil. Neutral PH 6.5 to 7.5

Well balanced fertilizer with an occasional boost of phosphate: weekly during the late spring and summer, monthly the rest of the year.

Repotting in early spring, just before the new buds are swelling. – Usually mid to low to mid 60F. Bottle Brush does not like to be root bound. Roots can be cut back severely, leaving the main root ball undisturbed. 

Bottle Brush has a vigorous upward growth habit and requires heavy pruning after flowering. They can be cut back to bare wood and will back shoot well. Wiring can be done as long as the branches have not hardened off.

By seed and cuttings in spring or fall. Propagation from cuttings is more reliable, particularly if the leaves are removed from the lower half to two-thirds. Cuttings should be approximately 4” long. Wound the lower stem by removing a sliver of bark and treat with a rooting hormone. Nursery stock with a good size trunk and good movement is also suitable. Reduce the tree to approximately 8 to 9”. Shoots will appear within weeks and the branch development can be started. Within 2 years it will make an incredible bonsai. 

Insect/ Disease:
Spider mites, Sphaeropsis gall, scale, root rot. Also is susceptible to Nematodes.

Dryer condition during the winter, but do not allow to dry out completely. Water heavily during summer 

During the summer full sun to facilitate blooms is best.

Bottlebrush likes cool conditions during the winter (protect below 50°F).

Bottle Brush lends itself to a variety of styles.






Common Name:    Dwarf Jade, Elephant Grass or Elephant Bush
Botanical Name:
Portulacaria afra – Even though this evergreen shrub is referred to as Dwarf Jade it is not related to the larger-leaved Jade plant which belongs to the Crassula family. In its native habitat, the arid, sub-tropical areas of South Africa, it reaches a height of approximately 10’,. Portulacaria is a succulent, which means that trunks and branches are water laden, semi-pliable, and depend on their moisture content rather than hard wood to maintain their rigidity. Elephants graze on the leaves.

The trunk and branches are reddish-brown and are smooth when young, and become peeling and papery when mature. Primary branches are often alternating, but secondary branches and twigs are almost always opposing. Leaves are about 1/3 of an inch long, smooth, oval and thick, and appearing in opposite pairs. Each pair of leaves grow at right angles to the next with a very short petiole. 

Flower/ fruit:
Light pink to purplish star shaped flower in autumn when grown in the ground. Rarely blooms as bonsai.

Any well draining soil.

Well balanced timed-release fertilizer throughout the growing season with a boost of high nitrogen every two to three weeks, poured over the foliage and allowed to wash into the soil, tapering off in late autumn to a once a month application. Yellow leaves could be an indication of lack of nitrogen.

Repotting in early spring is best, every 2-3 years. Allow the soil to become dry before repotting. After repotting and root pruning, place in semi-shade and do not water for about a week, in order to avoid root rot; then water thoroughly. Portulacaria supports itself with far fewer roots than other plants. One half of its root ball may cut off without removing any top growth. 

New growth should be continually pinched. Clip and grow as close as possible to the preceding set of leaves. Do not prune branches/twigs to unfoliated part.  Leave 1 – 2 pairs of new leaves. Prune back to a horizontal rather than vertical pair. If only a vertical pair of leaves if available you can wire and twist the branch so that the leaves become horizontal. Horizontal leaves promote side growth rather than upward or downward-directed shoots. Use scissors to cut flush instead of concave cutters. Deep scars may cause die back.  Do not use a wound sealer.  Dwarf Jade can become top heavy (because of the water content in the trunk and branches). Removal of the top is required when this happens. The bark scars easily when wired. Branches may break if bent too far. Wire when plant is dry.

Allow plant to dry out completely before removing leaves. After defoliation place plant in a semi-shaded location. Do not water until new growth appears.

Allow branch or root cuttings to dry completely, then plant in dry sand. Water lightly until growth occurs. 

Insect/ Disease:
Generally pest free although aphids, mealy bugs and root rot can be a problem. Do not use petroleum based pesticides.

Allow soil to dry out between watering. Yellow leaves and leaf drop may also be a sign of overwatering.

Full sun will result in vigorous and compact growth of leaves, twigs and short internodes.

All styles including, root over rock, forest plantings, and cascade.

Protect below 50°F.

WTBS Winter 1991 issue, Picture Jim Smith used with permission;  





Common Name: Rubicon white cedar, C. thyoides ‘Red Star’, Ericoides red star​​

Species: Chamaecyparis thyoides – is a pyramidical or columnar shaped evergreen shrub reaching a height of 15 to 25 feet. Red Star is also known as the cultivar ‘Ericoides’. Red Star is native to the Mid Atlantic States of the United States. Even though recommended for Zones 4 to 8, it grows well as bonsai in our area following a few simple rules. The trunk is reddish brown, turning scaly with age. The growth habit is moderate.

Foliage: The short leaves are of soft feathery texture, star shaped, and blue-green in summer. The first growth in spring covers the tree with beautiful light green foliage. In our zone Rubicon does not change color during the winter months.

Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer.

Repotting: Every 2 to 4 years for young trees and 3 to 5 years for older trees during the coldest time of the year from December through February. Do not remove more than 1/3 of the root at the time. 

Prune/Training: Best shaped through constant pinching of some of the new growth. Can be styled and wired in the normal manner. Remove dead branches and needles. 

Soil: Tolerates well draining acidic to neutral soils. Some organic material is recommended.

Propagation: Green or young woody cuttings in spring.

Insect/ Disease: No major pests noted. 

Watering: Loves moisture, but well draining soil. 

Light: Filtered sun to partial shade for young trees. Older trees tolerate more sun. Protect Red Star from the hot noonday sun during the summer month.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F. Does not like to be exposed to freezing conditions.

Styles: Formal upright, suitable for forest planting.





Common Name:     Live Oak, Southern Live Oak, Virginia Live Oak

Species: Quercus virginiana – is a long-living, evergreen or nearly evergreen oak tree native to the southeastern United States. Trees can be found from southeast Virginia, Florida, including the Florida Keys and west to southwest Texas. Depending on growing conditions, live oaks vary from shrubby to large and spreading, reaching a height of 45 feet, but may span nearly 120 feet. The bark is furrowed longitudinally. Southern live oak can grow in moist to dry sites, withstanding occasional floods and hurricanes and are resistant to salt spray and moderate soil salinity.

Foliage: Live oaks drop their leaves and grow new ones within a few weeks in spring. The leaves are alternate. The branches usually support other plant species such as Spanish moss, resurrection fern and orchids. The wood is very hard.

Flower/ fruit: Flowers appear in spring, followed by acorns. The acorns are a rich food source for birds, squirrels, wild turkey, white-tailed deer as well as the black bear.

Fertilizer: Use a balanced fertilizer. 

Repotting: From December through February. Allow tree to get 80% pot bound before re-potting.

Pruning/Training: Young branches can be wired, whereas older, thicker branches are stiff. Live oaks are very apically dominant and the top needs to be kept in check to keep the lower limbs strong. A very sharp blade and sealing paste need to be used when making large cuts to prevent die-back. Suckers from the roots need to be cut. 

Soil: Regular well draining bonsai soil.

Propagation: Collecting or growing from seed. Best time for collecting is January-February. Try to keep a large root ball. It is best to gradually reduce the tap root in three stages when collecting larger trees. Grown from seed the tap root is easier to control
Insect/ Disease: No major pests noted although Oak Wilt, a fungal disease has appeared among some Florida Oaks. 

Watering/Light: Moderate watering in a well-draining soil. Drought tolerant. Partial or full sun but full sun for better ramification.

Styles: Drift/deadwood can be incorporated. Upright, slanting, multi-trunk styles and group plantings

Temperature: Protect from freezing


http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/fr336 (oak wilt)
Sand Live Oak http://mobile.floridata.com/Plants/Fagaceae/Quercus%20geminata/1064​​


JULY 2011 -- NO TREE



Common Name: Grape, Muscadine

Grapes not suitable for bonsai are:

Vitis labrusca - American bunch or fox grape 
Vitis vinifera – French grape. These grape varieties are not suitable for our South Florida 

humid summer month where they would quickly succumb to 

fungus and bacterial disease.

Grapes that are suitable for South Florida:
Muscadinia rotundifolia – Muscadine Grape is a grapevine species native to the southeastern United States. Its range extends from New York to Florida and as far west as Oklahoma and Texas. Muscadines are well adapted to their native warm and humid climate. The difference from Vitis is in the number of chromosomes.

Foliage/Flowers/Trunk: Branches want to grow like a vine. The leaves are alternate, palmate lobes, 5 – 20 cm long and broad. Blooms appear between the 3rd and 6th leaf. The fruit is a berry known as grape and grow in small clusters of 2 to 10 berries. The colors range from dark purple to black when ripe. Some wild varieties stay green through maturity.  Flowers and grapes only grow on new shoots. Protect the flowers from rain. The big leaves do not dwarf well, therefore the trunk needs to be of reasonable proportion. The trunk of a mature grape is most interesting and very gnarly.

Feeding: In Spring when leaves and clusters of flowers appear feed weekly with 1 tbsp of Miracle-Gro™ in 1 gallon of water alternating with Miracid™(also 1 tbsp to 1 gal/water). Continue as long as the plant has flowers and fruit. Fertilize heavily again in the fall.

Repotting: Repotting should be done every two to three years in the dormant season. this will promote the health and life of the grape. Moderate to not more than 1/3rd root pruning is advised.

Soil: Requires a well draining, some sources suggest organic, soil, pH 5.5

Propagation: Cuttings during the warmer season. Old trunks can be collected where available. 

Insect/ Disease: Muscadine is resistant to many diseases especially Pierce’s disease (PD).

Watering: Muscadines like plenty of water, but do not like wet feet. Do not let dry out.

Light: Enjoys full sun. 

Temperature: Protect below 40°F

Training/Pruning: To obtain grapes prune during the dormant season to two to three inter nodes on a branch. Leave a good 2 to 3 inches of stick after the last node to avoid die back. In spring the buds will back-bud and hopefully produce flowers and grapes. After the branch has at least 6 leaves start controlling the growth by pinching to remove most new leaves. Defoliation usually results in more and smaller leaves. Wiring should also be done during dormant season.

Styles: Because of its vine like growth styling can be a challenge. The reward of this bonsai is in the fruit.

Sources: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muscadine




Common Name: Natal Plum, Carissa, Carissa Natal Plum

Species: Carissa macrocarpa is an evergreen, small thorny shrub native to the Northern South African province of KwaZulu/Natal, where it is primarily grown for its edible berry-like fruit.  The Carissa is a strong plant and with the right conditions of high heat and humidity, the growth of this plant is rapid. In Florida Carissa is planted extensively as a hedge or ornamental shrub.

Bark/Foliage: The Natal Plum has glossy dark green, oval leaves, which are arranged in opposing pairs. The branches are dense covered with forked spines. Wounds produce a white milky sap. Caution: All parts of Carissa are poisonous except for the fruit.

Flower/fruit: Flowers are produced most profusely in spring on new growth. The star-shaped white flowers are thick and waxy and approximately 2” across. Red, egg-shaped edible fruit are followed in summer and fall. The fruit contains approximately 12 small brown flat seeds. The flower is pollinated by night flying insects. A failure to produce fruit is usually lack of pollination.

Fertilizer: Monthly during the winter months, every other week during the growing season with well balanced fertilizer. 

Repotting: As the Natal Plum is a semi tropical plant repotting should be done in mid-spring to midsummer. Roots should be pruned minimally. After repotting limit watering until plant is firmly established to reduce risk root rot.

Prune/Training: Major pruning should be done in mid to late spring. In order to avoid die-back leave some green foliage on the branch. The Natal Plum buds back vigorously. Continue to prune as necessary during the growth period. Younger branches can be wired, but check regularly due to rapid growth. Older branches tend to be brittle.

Soil: Well draining bonsai soil, tolerant of different soils as well as salt tolerant.

Propagation: Both green and woody cuttings will root in soil as well as water. Also propagates from seed.

Insect/ Disease: Fungal infection can be a problem as well as spider mites, scale, thrips and whiteflies.

Watering: Regular watering in well draining soil; drought tolerant.

Light: Does best with full sun or a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun.

Styles: Suitable for informal upright or cascade. The wood is not suitable for jinns as it is very soft.

Temperature: Protect below 50°F, very cold sensitive.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carissa,  Picture on right from BBS Member​​




Common Name:    Limeberry, Limoncillio, Limau Kiah

Species: Trisphasia trifolia.  A member of the citrus family, it is believed this evergreen originated in Java, Indonesia. Today it has been introduced to areas in the Pacific, Indian Ocean countries as well as the Caribbean. Limeberry is often planted as hedge as well as an ornamental shrub. It is described as a glabrous shrub or small tree up to 3 meters tall with terete twigs bearing paired spines in the axils of the leaves. The slow growing plant is producing a nice gnarly trunk and makes a round-topped shrub. The fruit can be eaten raw as well as cooked to make preserve or candy, as well as used in beverages.

Foliage: The handsome foliage is shiny dark green. The terminal leaflet is ovate with a cuneate base and a rounded emarginated tip. The lateral leaflets are much smaller than the terminal one, broadly rounded at the tip. The petioles are very short. 

Flower/fruit: Fragrant flowers appear singly or 2 or 3 in the axils of the leaves. The 3-lobed petals are white.  Flowering season is from December to April. The edible small fruit is reddish-orange or crimson when ripe. The fruit contains 1 to 3 seeds. 

Feeding: Regular feeding with balanced as well as acid fertilizer.

Repotting/Pruning: In early spring after fruiting is over. Roots should be cut back gradually. 

Training: In spring allow to grow freely for flowers and fruit. The top can be severely pruned after flowering and fruiting. It usually grows back vigorously. The tree can be wired, but care must be taken to avoid scarring. Clip and grow works well to maintain shape. 

Soil: Regular well draining bonsai soil. Likes moist and humid conditions

Propagation: Can be propagated by seeds, cuttings, and air layering.

Insect/ Disease: Susceptible to a number of pests and diseases, including nematodes, scales, mites, and leaf miner.

Watering: Regular watering in a well-draining soil. 

Light: Prefers full sun.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

Styles:  Informal upright

Tropical Green Sheets​​




Common Name:    Chinese Privet
Botanical Name:    Ligustrum sinese.

Privet is a medium sized evergreen shrub that will grow up to 20 feet high. It has been known since Greco-Roman times and was introduced into the United States in early 1852 as an ornamental. The Privet has traditionally been used as ornamental plant or hedge. There are several drawbacks to Privet. The fruit is toxic to humans. If there is an abundance of flowers in landscaping it can produce respiratory irritation. The shrub is poisonous to horses and in some places in the world it is considered invasive, as it easily propagates from seed. There are many species and cultivars of Ligustrum found all over Florida with a diversity of leaf colors, leaf forms and growth habits. All make good bonsai specimens.

Foliage/Flower/Fruit: Semi-evergreen with opposite leaves. It does not display apical dominance. White flowers in late spring and early summer in 2-3” long clusters, followed by small, oval, fleshy fruit (berries), which ripen to a dark purple to black color. 

Soil: Any well draining soil. 

Fertilizer:  Use a balanced fertilizer (e.g. 20-20-20) every two weeks in the summer and once a month in the winter. Responds well to the addition of chelated iron.

Repot:  Repot annually when minimum night temperatures are in the mid to high 50°’s.

Prune: Clip and grow is a good method to use with Chinese Privet as it is a fast grower. Trim leaves back to two new leaves. During the growing season, Privet will take severe root and branch pruning. Cuts made with a concave cutter may cause some die back. Seal cuts carefully. Regular leaf pinching will encourage branching. Privet will break out with new buds in both trunk and branches. Defoliation is not recommended for this species.

Propagation: Cuttings (hard wood in winter, soft in summer), grafting or air-layering in late spring, and seeds in autumn or spring.

Insect/ Disease: Aphids, scale, white fly, leaf miner, thrips, spider mites and nematodes are all common enemies.  Diseases include leaf spot and root rot.

Watering/Light: Likes to be evenly moist. Privet wilts readily if allowed to dry out and remain dry. However, it does not like wet feet. Part shade to full sun.

Training: Trim to shape in the spring and summer.  Wire anytime, being careful with tender young growth. Due to its fast growth wires must be checked regularly. 

Styles: Most suitable style informal upright.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.





Botanical Name:
Ehretia microphylla (Carmona microphylla/buxifolia). This evergreen tree is native to Southeast Asia and it can be found from India, China, Japan to the Solomon Islands. The bark of the FT is gray with darker, warty elevated areas. The leaves are used (both dry and fresh) to prepare a delicious tea. The US National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health recently reported that an anti snake venom was extracted from the root bark of Ehretia buxifolia against Echia carinatus, a venomous viper species responsible for most snake bite cases and death in SE Asia.

Flower/ fruit:  Small star-shaped flowers year round. The small leafed variety produces abundant fruit and seeds; the large leaf variety rarely produces fruit. The leaves have a “sand-paper” surface containing small gray spots. 

Soil:  Any well draining soil containing approximately 50% organic material. Do not allow soil to become compacted or roots will rot.

Fertilizer:  Use a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 20-20-20) alternating with a high phosphate (e.g., 10-15-10). Chlorotic leaves may indicate a need for Iron.

Repot:  Repot when minimum night temperatures are low to mid 60’s. 

Prune:  Fukien Tea may be heavily root and top pruned.

Propagation:  Seeds, cuttings, air-layering. 

Insect/ Disease:  The flowers on FT attract ants, which in turn open the way for aphids, scale, sooty mold and fungi. When you see ants on your Fukien Tea beware! Keep foliage thinned out. A blast of water from the hose will remove many aphids. Flowers can also be removed to control the insect problem. Fukien Tea is sensitive to many chemicals including dormant oil or any chemical that contains oils. Diazinon is toxic to Fukien Tea.

Watering/Light:  Needs plenty of water in well-draining soil. Full sun prevents fungi and keeps leaves small and dark green. 

Training:  Clip and grow is best; utilize directional growth pattern when clipping to minimize need for wiring. A prolific grower, Fukien Tea handles reduction cuts with good back budding. Large cuts do not heal over and need to be placed at the back of the tree or turned into jinns. The largest leaf in a whorl should be removed. Fukien Tea does not like to be root bound. Mame and Shohin size in very small bonsai pots can be placed in training pots filled with sand. When the roots extend into the sand, the tree is healthier and the trunk thickens. The roots can be cut off any time. 

Temperature:  Protect below 40°F.

Style:  Suitable for small to large size bonsai, informal upright, cascade or semi cascade, also good for forest, Penjing (tray scenery) or Saikei (planted landscape)