Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Post 115 Native Elm

With a trend to greater adoption of Australian native species for bonsai the Native Elm is one I have not seen used. In fact I have only just recently become aware that we have a native species which is a true member of the Ulmaceae family, pretty exciting actually.

Our Native Elm (Aphananthe philippinensis) also known by a variety of other common names including Wild holly, Rough leaved hickory, Greyhandle wood, Axe handle wood occurs along the Northern NSW and Queensland coast all the way through to the Philippines, which is where it was first described, hence the name. That last common name; Axe handle tree, came about because the early settlers appreciated the timber for axe handles and then proceeded to use them to cut everything else down.

It can grow to 35m but more commonly to 20m, so a nice sized tree, with a narrow canopy and a trunk that can become buttressed and fluted. The leaves are simple ( ie not multi lobed), alternate (meaning the nodes are alternate and thus good for branching), prickly or toothed and of quite heavy texture with a sandpapery surface feel.

This map shows the Australian distribution. Its preferred habitat is dry rainforest, if that's not a contradiction, but looking at the map it sure likes coastal proximity and the Qld/NSW border is the hot spot. It is a very hardy and slow grower, should be perfect for bonsai.

Here is a picture of the leaves and you can clearly see why it is also called Native Holly. Apparently the toothiness of the leaves changes as the tree matures. Whether it is possible to get leaf size reduction is an interesting question that will only be answered by having a go. The fruit is apparently edible and tastes of stewed apples.

With that in mind I had to do a little research on where to find some locally but was successful and now have a bundle of cuttings set for the spring. The next shot is a picture of the different leaf shapes on the bits I collected, which show an amazing variety. I'm not even sure if the one on the right is an elm but it has all the other characteristics and habit. The leaf on the top left is 60mm long.

Apart from the one unknown of leaf size reduction everything else about the species say it is a great candidate for bonsai.

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