Common Name: Jaboticaba, Brazilian Grape Tree     

Botanical Name:    Myrciaria cauliflora

This evergreen, fruit bearing small tree is native to Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil. The peeling bark is very smooth, creamy tan with a pinkish tint and soft patches of gray, similar to guava and crape myrtle. The opposite new leaves are pink and then turn green. Growth is compact. In spring Jaboticaba sheds half its leaves. 

During the warmer months white clustered flowers occur all over the trunk, large branches and exposed roots. The edible berry is dark, purplish, globular shaped, ¾” to 1 ½” in diameter. As bonsai Jaboticaba rarely sets flowers and fruit. The fruit contains several potent antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer compounds.

A well draining soil with some organic material added.

A heavy feeder - prefers a fertilizer for acid loving plants. Add super triple phosphate (0-45-0) during the growing season as well as fertilizers containing minor elements, especially magnesium. 

Jaboticaba prefers to be root bound.  Repotting should be done in spring when minimum night temperatures are in the low to mid 60°F. 

Jaboticaba can take severe root pruning, but be careful of over watering after repotting to prevent root rot. Jaboticaba can also be shaped by heavy branch pruning. Allow extra room for die back when branch pruning. 

Usually from seeds, as well as air layering.

Insect/ Disease:
The tree is mostly disease and pest free. 

Keep evenly moist but not soggy. You may need to water several times daily during the hottest part of the summer, especially if the plant is root bound. Most leaf burn is caused by intense sun or a lack of adequate watering. Pinching off scorched leaves is a good practice and will cause back budding. Jaboticaba does not tolerate salt.

Prefers full sun but will also does well in moderate shade. Moving to morning sun during the heat intensive months is a good practice to prevent leaf burn.

Developing a full canopy is a good goal. Growth becomes very compact using the clip and grow method. Shorten new shoots from six to eight leaves to one to two. Wiring may also be used for training – watch out for bark damage from wire scars. The tree can be defoliated during the spring, but it is slow to recover. 

Protect below 40°F. 

1st Picture from 2005 BSF Convention,
2nd Picture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jabuticaba





Common Name:    Jamaican Raintree, Ebony Coccuswood, Grenadilla, J. Ebony, West Indian Ebony

Botanical Name:    Byra ebenus – Native to the Caribbean, in particular Jamaica, this evergreen tree grows 25 to 30’ tall. New branches grow straight up. As the branches become longer and heavier they cascade downward. Yellow-orange flowers appear along the branches after heavy rainfall and high humidity. Jamaican Rain Tree has a slow growth habit.

Small evergreen tiny, opposite leaves and small thorns.

Flower/ fruit:
Fragrant yellow-orange flowers appear along the branches during the rainy season, followed by pods containing 1 seed.

Use a soil with a good balance of drainage and water retention. It likes moisture, but will not tolerate soggy soils. 

Use a balanced fertilizer (e.g., 20-20-20) alternating with a high phosphate (e.g., 10-15-10). 

Repot/Root Pruning:
Repot during summer month. ROOT PRUNE SPARINGLY over several re-pottings. 

Prolific back budding and angular growth. Buds back on old wood. Top can be pruned heavily. Clip and grow is best, may also be wired.

Seeds, cuttings, air-layering. Let pod dry on plant. After removing the seed germinate in damp paper towel.

Insect/ Disease:
No major pests noted.

Water as needed in a well-draining soil. Do not let dry out.

Morning or full sun to encourage flowering.

Protect below 50°F.

Suitable for small to medium size bonsai due to difficulty in obtaining a larger trunk: informal upright.

Picture : http://www.rareflora.com/bryaebe.html




Common Name:    Crape Myrtle, Dwarf Crape Myrtle, Queen Crape Myrtle

Lagerstroemia sp is a genus of about 50 species of mostly deciduous trees and shrubs, native to Asia, Northern Australia and some Pacific Islands. French Botanist Andre Michaux introduced L. indica to Charleston, South Carolina in 1790. Most species grow as either small tree of multi-stemmed large shrubs. There are many dwarf cultivars available. The most famous feature of Crape Myrtle is its striking flowers. The striking Queen Crape Myrtle or Banaba (L. speciosa) originates from India, grows to a height of 40’ to 60’. Because of its size of flowers and leaves it is not suitable for bonsai. Most cultivars available are L. indica or L. fauriei.

Grape Myrtle exfoliates its outer layer of bark from time to time, resulting in an attractive appearance, exposing pale gray through rusty brown to almost pink mottled bark. Although branches grow quickly the trunk thickens very slowly. Leaves are opposite and range from very small to 8 inches long. New leaves are bronze colored, turning green. Fall colors of the leaves range from bright yellow to deep rust. 

Most Crape Myrtles are prolific bloomers during the summer. Colors range from white to pink, red and deep purple. Crinkled flowers appear in clusters during warm weather (June to August) at the end of new growth, followed by the green fruit, which ripens to a dark brown dry capsule. It produces numerous small winged seeds. 

Any well draining soil. Extra organic material may be added in a 60/40% ratio. 

Use balanced fertilizer during the growing season with an occasional boost of high phosphate. 

Best time to repot is when tree is dormant, as well as in early spring or late summer. Minimum night temperatures should be in the low to mid 50’s F. 

Crape Myrtle will take severe pruning in the early spring, or in late fall after flowering is complete. Work the top first, to allow time for new flower buds to appear. Do not prune later than early summer, if you want flowers. The branches on Crape Myrtle grow rapidly and require constant pinching. Flowers may have to be sacrificed for a number of years to develop branch ramification. Branches can be wired.

From seeds, soft wood cuttings or air layering. 

Insect/ Disease: Aphids, scale and powdery mildew can be a problem. 

Keep evenly moist but not soggy. Allow the top of the soil to dry slightly between watering to promote flowering. During the dormant season, when the tree is almost devoid of leaves, be careful not to over water.

Full sun is best. 

Protect below 40°F. 





Common Name:                       Sea Grape, Seagrape, Baygrape

Botanical Name:
Coccoloba uvifera – Is a tropical evergreen tree also grown as shrub or hedge native to coastal beaches in the Caribbean, Central and South America, as well as South Florida. It is used as dune stabilizer and coastal wind break. In nature Sea Grape grows naturally as multiple trunk or clump style to a maximum height of 30 feet. Sea Grape is part of the buck wheat family and very salt tolerant.

The yellowish bark is exfoliating revealing a beautiful smooth rusty color in mature trees. The trunk grows slowly.  Leaves are leathery, alternate, simple, rounded, and very large.  The primary vein has a red color and the whole leaf turns red as it ages. In cooler weather leaves turn orange-red and fall off before the new spring growth.

Flower/ fruit:
Sea Grape is dioecious – male and female flowers are borne on separate plants. After cross pollination by bees and other insects grape like green fruit develop, containing each one big seed.  When ripe in late summer grapes turn purple. The fruit is edible and tasty and can be made into jam and is used in wine making.

Well draining bonsai soil. 

Balanced fertilizer e.g., 20-20-20 every 2 weeks during growing season, and every 4-6 weeks during winter.

Minimum night temperatures low 70°F.  Repot every 2-3 years as roots grow slowly. Root prune moderately. Remove the same percentage of foliage and roots.  

Regular pruning of foliage is needed to develop good ramification.  Directional cutting is important. A healthy tree can be defoliated 2-3 times per year. This will also cause dormant buds to shoot and create new branches. When cutting branches leave enough room for die back. Sea Grape can be wired, but the thin bark is subject to scarring. Tie downs can be used to reposition branches.

Woody or green cuttings, by seed, as well as nursery stock. The seeds need to be planted immediately as they cannot be stored.

Insect/ Disease:
Occasional nipple gall on upper leaf surfaces and borer on stems as well as aphids on new growth.

Sea Grape is drought tolerant but when in a bonsai pot, it likes water.

Likes full sun (best for leaf reduction) but will grow in partial shade.  

Informal upright with or without dead wood, literati, clump/multiple trunk, cascade.

Sea grape in nature survives up to 35oF, but does not tolerate freezing. As bonsai protect below 40oF.





Common Name: Coolie Cap, Chinese Hat, Cup and Saucer Plant, Parasol Flower

Botanical Name: Holmskioldia sanguinea – Named after Theodore Holmskiold, an 18th century Danish Physician and professor, Coolie Hat is native to the Himalayan lowlands of India and China. Coolie Hat is an erect climbing vine. The growth habit is fast. As a bonsai this vine is grown for its unusual flowers, which in landscaping attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Bark/Branches/Foliage: The bark is sandy brown. The branches are long and trailing. The mid green leaves are arranged in pairs.

Flower/ fruit: Varieties come in red, red-orange and orange parasol shaped flowers. Some flowers can occur throughout the year, but most heavily in the dry season from late fall to spring. Clusters of up to six hat-like flowers arise from in-between the leaves along the stems.

Soil: Any well draining soil.

Fertilizer: A balanced fertilizer during the growing season, adding phosphate late summer for blooms. Careful with nitrogen, as it will stretch the internodes.

Repot: Repotting in early spring is best, every 2-3 years, when average nighttime temperatures are in the low to mid 60°'sF. 

Pruning/Training: Coolie Hat will tolerate severe top and root pruning, but die back needs to be considered. This tree is a fast grower and needs to be pruned back almost weekly back to the first or second node on secondary branches until mid-August. Buds will start setting in September. The tree can be wired for movement in the main branches, but branches break easily and watch for wire scarring. 

Propagation: Cuttings and air layering.

Insect/ Disease: Watch for scale, mites and aphids.

Watering: Likes lots of water during the summer months.

Light: Full sun is best, but also tolerates partial sun.

Styles: Multiple trunk, informal upright, cascade.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.





Common Name: Royal Poinciana, Flamboyant, Flame Tree, Red Flame Tree, Mohur Tree, Fire Tree 

Species: Delonix regia – a native of Madagascar, it is high on the list of the world’s most beautiful flowering tree. Today this fast growing, multi-branched, board, flat-crowned tree is found in most tropical regions of the world. It is considered a shade tree growing to a height of 40’ and takes on a natural umbrella shape to a width of 60’. In areas with long dry season it sheds its leaves, in other areas it is virtually evergreen. Because it is a legume, the tree has nitrogen-fixing and soil improving properties.

Foliage/Flowers:    Leaf arrangement is alternate. Leaf type is bipinnate compound. The leaflet shape is oblong compound. The fern-like leaves are light and bright green. The large flowers have four spreading scarlet to orange petals up to 8 cm long and an upright 5th petal called the standard. The standard has yellow and white spots. The variety flavida has striking yellow petals. Allow young trees at least 5 years to produce first blooms. In Florida trees bloom from May to July. The drier the season the more flowers the tree produces, which are followed by large (12” or more) dark brown seed pods, containing multiple seeds. On old trees the branches droop almost touching the ground. The wood is weak and susceptible to breakage.  The bark is smooth and grey. The tree often displays surface roots.

Feeding: In Spring when the growing season begins feed with well balanced 8-8-8 or 10-10-10 slow release fertilizer. Again, feed in midsummer.

Repotting: Some sources suggest annual repotting. Moderate to not more than 1/3rd root pruning is advised. Remove deadened roots back to root mass. 

Soil: Any kind of well draining bonsai soil. Some sources suggest equal parts of coarse sand, nutrient-rich potting soil and organic compost, such as pine bark.

Propagation: By seed.

Insect/ Disease: Usually not affected by pests

Watering: A mature plant that flowers water thoroughly and infrequently to provide a slightly dry environment, especially during spring to promote flowering. Never allow the tree to completely dry out. Over watering will cause root rot.

Light: Enjoys full sun. 

Temperature: Protect below 40°F

Training/Pruning: In early spring hard prune this vigorous grower to maintain health and shape and to promote desired shape. Continue pruning throughout the growing season. To increase light penetration and air circulation thin interior branches and stems.

Styles: Informal upright, multiple trunk. More suitable for large bonsai due to size of leaves and flowers.

Pictures used by permission of Café de Puerto Rico





Common Name:    Australian Pine, She Oak, Beefwood, Horsetail Tree

Species: Casuarina equisetifolia – Is a fast growing deciduous tree native to Malaysia, southern Asia, Oceania and Australia. There are over 45 species in this genus.  Australian pine can reach a height of 100 feet and bears a superficial resemblance to the conifer genus Pinus. The tree produces dense shade and a thick blanket of leaves and fruit completely covers the ground beneath it, displacing any vegetation. The ground below Australian pine becomes ecologically sterile, lacking in food value for native wildlife. During storms the roots of Australian pine make it susceptible to blowing over. In Florida Australian pine was introduced in the late 1800’s and planted widely for the purpose of ditch and canal stabilization, shade and lumber. It is also on the unwanted species list.

Trunk/Foliage: The bark is rough, fissured dark gray. The ‘needles’ are actually multi jointed stalks or branch lets. The scale like leaves appear in whorls forming on the joints of the branches.    

Flowers/Fruit: Male and female flowers form on the same tree. The tree produces a small, round, cone-like fruit about 1/2 inch in diameter that contains winged seeds. 

Soil: Use soil with a good balance of drainage and water retention. In Australia sources suggest adding a small amount of washed course river sand to the standard bonsai mix for best results.

Fertilizer: Fish emulsion monthly during the growing season and slow release fertilizer at potting time.

Repot: Repot prior to growth period in early spring when night temperatures are above 50°F. Australian pine should be root pruned like conifers and the soil/roots immediately around the trunk should not be touched.

Pruning/Training: Collected trees can be cutback to bare wood. Before the new season’s growth starts the foliage on established trees can be drastically reduced including complete defoliation. ‘Needles’ and unwanted growth can be shortened or removed by pulling away the excess. Cutting will cause browning.

Propagation: From seeds, cuttings or air layering, but why bother as they are readily available for collecting 

Insect/ Disease: Resistant to most diseases and insects. Borer & nematodes can sometimes be a problem.  

Watering: Australian pine is reasonably thirsty, and should not dry out. Keep moist during heat of summer.

Light: Will take full sun to part shade. 

Temperature: Even though somewhat frost tolerant protect below 40°F. 

Styles: Can be grown in any style.





Common Name:    Dwarf Black Olive, Spiny Black Olive

Species:    Bucida spinosa is a tropical evergreen native to Cuba, The Bahamas, the upper Florida Keys, and Puerto Rico. Even though it is called an olive tree it is related to the mangrove and buttonwood family. It is very salt tolerant. The tree will grow to a height of 15 – 25’, with a spread of 15 to 25’. Sometimes the crown will flatten with age and the crown grows in a horizontal zigzag pattern. The growth rate is slow. Today it is illegal to collect the tree from its native habitats.

Trunk/Foliage/Fruit: The trunk is gray and develops a deep fissured textured bark. The zigzag branches are opposite and spiral. The small green leaves turn orange or scarlet before they drop, producing a new set within a week or two.  This normal process can occur several times during spring and summer. The small thorns can be removed and do not re-grow. Yellow-beige flowers appear during spring and summer, followed by small black seed capsules.

Soil: Any well draining soil, can be slightly alkaline.

Fertilizer: During growing season likes frequent fertilization including a boost of nitrogen. Any balanced fertilizer e.g., 20-20-20 or 10-10-10. 

Repot: Repot in July and August when the difference between day and night temperatures is minimal. Root prune carefully and gradually; remove the same percentage of foliage and root growth. Plant loss occurs when repotted at the wrong time of year.

Pruning/Training:    Trim foliage any time of year. During the growing season pinch or trim back new growth, always leaving some to sustain the health of the tree. As the plant growth it changes direction at every internode, making a bend of 25 to 35 degrees, which can be incorporated into the styling. Clip and grow is easy with this plant. New growth occurs in whorls. Remove the ones growing straight up. 

Propagation: From seeds or soft wood cuttings. Seeds may not be true to form as they may have been pollinated by the larger forms such as Bucida buceras. Air layering is possible though somewhat difficult.

Insect/ Disease:    Fairly hardy – not many insect pests, occasionally bothered by sooty mold.

Watering/Light:    Keep evenly moist. Do not let them dry out. Leaf loss may occur if they dry out. Full sun with good air circulation.

Styles:        Can be successfully adopted to any style.

Temperature: Protect below 40°F.

…. online sources  





Common Name: Dwarf Schefflera, Dwarf Umbrella Tree

Species:    Schefflera arboricola – is named in honor of 18th century German botanist Jacob Christian Scheffler. Native to Australia and its surrounding islands Scheffler aboricola are evergreen shrubs or lianas 3 to 6 feet tall and very hardy, fast growers.

Trunk/Foliage/Fruit:    The trunk is not particularly woody, it does not develop growth rings as trees do. The trunk and stems have a similar external “woody” layer and a central pith stem. The leaves are alternate compound elliptic, and range from solid green to variegated. The orange-yellow fruit is less than ? inch; fruit may form in the winter. Schefflera develops aerial roots with ease.

Soil:    Any well draining soil on sandy side; pH 6.0-7.5.

Fertilizer:    Any balanced fertilizer e.g., 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 weekly or every 2 weeks at half strength during the growing season, once per month during the winter months. 

Repot:    Every 2 to 3 years in early spring. Roots can be severely pruned, but are also subject to damage by rough handling. Schefflera likes to be in a shallow pot.

Pruning/Training:    Regular hard pruning is needed to develop strong branching. Clip and grow is best. Only young branches can be wired. Healthy trees can be totally defoliated. Branches developing in the wrong spot can be easily rubbed off.

Propagation:    Seed, air layering in spring or summer cuttings. It is readily available in nurseries.

Insect/ Disease:  Usually none, occasional scale, mealy bugs and aphids. 

Watering/Light:    Prefers soil on the dry side, but must not be allowed to dry out.  Reduced watering during the winter months. Full sun to partial shade. Variegated varieties prefer more sun to maintain color. More sun is beneficial to reduce the size of the leaves.

Styles:    Informal upright with a large canopy and aerial roots. Banyan Style. Root over rock with lots of exposed roots. Any design that emphasizes aerial roots. Multiple trunk style.

Temperature:    Protect below 50°F.

Source: http://www.bonsaihunk.us/info/ScheffleraBonsai.html
Picture: Fuku-Bonsai, Hawaii, photo David Fukumoto​




Common Name: Lignumvitae, Lignum Vitae, Ironwood, Tree of Life, Guajacum, Palus Sanctus, Lignum Benedictum, Lignun Sanctum, Spanish: Guayacan

Species:Guaiacum officinale – is an extremely slow-growing broadleaf evergreen tree which can reach a height of 30 to 40 feet. Native to the Caribbean Lignum Vitae, Latin for “long life” or another source says “wood of life”, is the heaviest and densest wood in the world, and will not float in water, but sink to the bottom. The wood contains resin, which has been used to treat a variety of medical conditions from cough to arthritis; chips of the wood can also be used to brew a tea. In times past the hard wood found many industrial uses. Fortunately the demand for the wood has been reduced by modern materials, such as polymers, alloys and composite materials. 

Trunk/Foliage/Fruit: The trunk has a smooth, beige/grey bark. The leaves are opposite, pinnately compound, oval and have a lush green color. The showy flowers are blue, blooming from late spring until late summer, but can produce some flowers year round. The flowers are followed by 1/2 inch round fleshy, yellow fruit, which contain a red seed. Flower and fruit can appear at the same time. The flower is the national flower of Jamaica and attracts butterflies.

Soil:  Any well draining soil.

Fertilizer:  Any balanced fertilizer e.g., 20-20-20 or 10-10-10 weekly or every 2 weeks at half strength during the growing season, once per month during the winter month. A super phosphate in fall and spring helps to promote flowering.

Repot:  Every 2 to 3 years in early spring with minimum night temperatures in the low to mid 60°F. When purchasing a nursery tree, roots should be pruned about 1/4 at each repotting. A few leaves need to be left on branches when pruning until break back develop.

Pruning/Training:     Regular hard pruning is needed to develop strong branching. Clip and grow is best. Only young branches can be wired.  Wiring can be done very carefully, as branches are brittle and scar easily. Clip and grow is advised.

Propagation:  Seed only.

Insect/ Disease:  No pests or diseases of concern. 

Watering/Light:  Lignum Vitae prefers moist but well draining soil, with generous watering during the summer months, and dryer conditions during the winter months.

Styles:  In nature the plant often grows as single as well as multiple trunks with a spreading canopy. It is well suited for container planting such as bonsai. Informal upright as well is appropriate. 

Temperature:  Protect below 45°F.

Tropical Green Sheets

​images: https://www.rareflora.com/guaiacumsan.htm




Common Name:    Desert Rose, Karoo Rose, Impala Lily, Sabi Star

Adenium obesum – is a succulent of the family Apocynaceae native to East Africa and the Middle East. In the wild the species range from 8 inches tall to ‘shrublets’ to small trees with swollen trunks (caudex) up to a height of 15 feet. The main attraction of Adenium is their showy flowers. Adenium are fast growing and easy to maintain when given the right conditions and proper care. They adapt readily to container culture and make interesting and untraditional bonsai specimens. Adenum produces a milky sap, which can cause skin irritation as well as serious internal poisoning if sap is swallowed.

The bulbous trunk (caudex) can be almost globoid to conical, narrowing before dividing into numerous irregularly spaced branches. Branches are smooth, grayish-green to brown, with small, terminal, spirally arranged glossy green leaves. The exotic flowers are 2” pink and white and open-trumpet shaped, blooming throughout the year. Adenium will defoliate during the dormant season. In South Florida they never go completely dormant.

A well draining bonsai soil is a must. Some advise no organic matter. Other sources recommend using a mix of peat, adding 10-15 percent crushed pine bark, perlite or coarse builders sand or a mix of all three. 

Use a 13-13-13 slow release fertilizer together with a monthly application foliar feeding with a water-soluble fertilizer during the growing season. Adenium require high nitrogen to flower well. Adenium prefer constant low levels of feed to infrequent high doses. Adenium does NOT need phosphorous bloom fertilizer to bloom.

Mature trees can be repotted every 2 to 3 years, younger trees yearly during the active growing season. Do not water for a week after repotting if any large roots were removed or damaged. Root prune lightly not more than a third of the root mass. Soil level can be slightly lowered with each repotting to slowly expose the thick, fleshy roots. Newly exposed roots are sensitive to light, and benefit from being partially shaded for the first few months.

Occasional trimming and pinching is necessary to keep the tree miniature. Never remove all of the new growth; a little should be left to sustain the health of the tree.

5” long cuttings, preferably leafless, dipped into rooting hormone with fungicide. Air layering has been used to a limited extent. Roots form in 6-8 weeks. Best results are during hot, humid weather.

Insect/ Disease:
Very susceptible to fungal root and stem rots. In South Florida there can be a problem with scales, mealy bugs and spider mites.  It is susceptible to the Oleander Caterpillar (Polka Dot Wasp Moth) as it is in the same subfamily as the oleander. Adeniums are sensitive to most pesticides. Insecticidal soaps are safe for the plant. 

Soak plant until water leaches from the bottom of the pot then allow it to become completely dry (within 3 to 5 days). The beginning of dormancy has a drop in water consumption and sometimes yellowing and dropping of the plant’s leaves. Decrease watering accordingly. In spring slowly increase water again, watching for new growth. Adenium cannot come out of dormancy without the increase of water, but too much too soon can cause root death. 

A bulbous trunk with multiple branches.

Protect below 40°F.