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Ficus by Ian Ross

by Ian Ross

Some 20 species of Ficus found in the Republic, belong to the Genus MORACEAE , which includes the mulberry, banyan, breaddfruit, and many others" Characteristically they grow in tropical and subtropical climates, the warmth, moisture and humus containing soil being readily matched by the Bonsai hobbyist, Koreshoff of Australia states that Figs are 'wonderful material' for Bonsai but there are some important facts to learn about them.

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Propagation is easy - and can be done most times of the year by taking cuttings up to 5 mm diameter from any suitably branched tree or from prunings. Cut the base obliquely to expose more cambium, remove most of the leaves, dip into root hormone and bury in a pre-made hole in sharp sand to t of the length and press the soil back lightly. Keep moist, eg standing in a dish of water and allow a little morning sun, but no wind ~ Roots develop in 6 - 8 weeks. Cuttings may be left for a year or transferred when active leaf growth starts to a larger container for encouraging trunk developpment and styling.ficus-ian-ross-cutting

Roots are greedy for moisture and nourishment. As the surface or ground level roots are such an attractive feature for their buttressing effect or ability to 'flow and fuse' over rock, apply humus and fertiliser in liquid form every 2 - 3 weeks in the growing season and late autumn.

Shaping and training presents no problem as the wood is pliable, but frequent nipping out of the buds, leaving 1 - 3 leaves and vigorous cutting back are needed to overcome the natural tendency to grow long ,spindly and therefore characterless branchlets. A point to remember is that Ficus prefer shade during our hot months. Defoliation by hand, from the middle of January, gives a second crop of smaller leaves when desired for balance.

Natural Bonsai, found in rocky terrain and crevices where birds have droppped the eaten seeds, are the most rewarding of all as starting from scratch may take up to 10 years of maturing before being satisfyingly presentable for exhibition, as is the case with many other varieties.

Identification of Bonsai Ficus is difficult for several reasons, as very few fruit in their containers and foliage alone is difficult and puzzling in the miniaturized form.

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Distant mountain heights...

Lonely trees clinging...

In the hollow of my hand

Random Bonsai Tip

Tree stabilizers - Sew cotton/canvas tubes or use plastic shopping bags partly fill with sand and use as stabilizers when transporting trees by car.