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Hot and Spicy Pepper Tree Steve Valentine!


At our last club meeting Steve Valentine was our guest presenter. He drove all the way up from Vista to give us a pretty special presentation about this massive Brazilian Pepper tree. To most people a pepper tree would not add up to much, but the detailing on this tree is pretty amazing because of its unique characteristics.

Yes, this is the same tree Steve showed at the 2015 GSBF Convention in Riverside. A bit overgrown but the bones are still there. The reason Steve brought it in for a remodel is because this year in a freak accident during a show a major branch broke on cart on the way to the display area.

This tree has been grown specifically for bonsai. It been developed by a long-time friend of Steve by the name of BJ Patterson from San Diego. Tree nebari and trunk is just amazing. This tree was not classically trunk chopped but slowly grown with specific leaders in the ground for over 30 years.

The Brazilian Pepper tree is a small Brazilian (in terms on the Amazon small) evergreen tree or shrub, Schinus terebinthifolius, of the cashew family, having inconspicuous white flowers and bright red fruit: the berries are commonly used for Christmas decorations. Even in our temperate conditions this tough little tree does not drop it leaves in fall/winter.

Some of the challenges of this tree is that it has compound leaf structure. Meaning that there is a main vein with several small leaves coming off that vein structure vs a single leaf with a single vein. Most compound leaf trees are an aggressive grower and needs to be trimmed on a consistent basis. Also, big branches take some time to heal completely.

Here is an up close picture of the bark structure. This tree will aggressively put out adventurous buds from the old bark. Side note the bark just a treat on this tree almost like a gray black pine in terms of crustiness.

It was good to see that in terms of basic bonsai maintenance, brazilian pepper trees fall pretty much like any deciduous tree. Let it grow and trim back hard. The only real difference is where to leave cut on the leaf structure to get proper backbudding and pad building.

So here is a sample branch I ask Steve to quickly show me what he is doing to the entire tree canopy.

So a Brazilian Pepper tree is composed of a 7 leaflet. From that 7 leaflet, Steve will usually always select the last 2 leaves closest to the stem.

He continues to trim the same way up the branch structure.

This type of trimming will give a more tightly ramified looked in a relatively short amount of time.

He continues up the branch. Repeating the same type of cuts.

Here is a good photo of the last 2 leaflet on the branch structure. As you can tell from this photo. The branch started as a lanky branch into a rather tight padded structure with only one trimming pass. Now can you imaging doing this every week?

After our short break, Steve switched gears about this large ficus. Its a client's tree which was not adding up to much. So, this year he trunk chopped it down from 5' to about 7". From this photo you can not tell the nice nebari this large ficus has. As he predicted the ficus responded well and back budded nicely.

So Steve ended the night with this beauty. Yes, it is a cork elm. But the story behind this elm what makes it amazing. The parent tree which this little guy was airlayered from was collected tree by Bob Knox from San Diego. The original owner and collector, Bob Knox airlayered the top of the tree cause it was not part of the final design of the collected tree. The crazy part is the parent tree is a plain old Chinese Elm. This airlayered section has tiny leaf structure, corked barked showing at a young age and bark is crusty like the Brazilian Pepper.

Steve was gracious enough to donate one of these special elm's into our club raffle. Of course Farn was the lucky winner! Thank you Steve for the wonderful demo of the night.

#SteveValentine #BrazilianPepperTree #CorkElm #clubmeeting

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