I am a scientist and study ecophysiology, the topic of how plants adjust themselves to different environments. Currently, I am writing a scientific paper, and I would like to give an example of how widely different a plant of a given age can be in size, depending on environmental conditions. One of the most striking examples I an think of is of course the difference between a bonsai tree and a 'normally-growing' tree of the same species and age. But how much is that difference in numbers? 10x?, 100x?, 1000x?, 10,000x?
So I have 2 questions for you:
Question 1: In the scientific literature, I was not able to find any data for this difference. Do you maybe know from the bonsai literature whether somebody has tried to quantify how different they are?
Question 2: For adult trees of many species, there are data where people have chopped up trees in leaves, branches, stem (and sometimes roots), dried them in an oven until all water was gone, and then measured the dry weight. I can understand that there are not many of you that happily do the same with your beloved bonsai trees. But there is an alternative: rather than the dry mass of the whole plant, we can also take the volume of the trunk, that comes pretty close. So I wonder whether we can compare that to the volume of 'normally-growing' trees. My question to you therefore is: Do you have a bonsai tree of more than 50 years old, for which you could measure the following 2 things:
- Total length of the trunk (so the length of the main stem from base to the top branch, rather than the height), length of branches is not necessary.
- The diameter (or circumference) of that main stem at 5 places between base and top?
If 20 persons would be willing to help me with these simple data (plus name of the species, estimated age of that tree, and whether you measured in centimeters or inches), I will try to match that with data from trees of the same species and age growing in fertile conditions in nature. In this way I will have 20 different estimates, and better quantify how variable this range is. Of course I will report that back in this forum.
It would be great if you could help me with question 1 or 2!
There is no such thing as "the weight of a bonsai tree". I have trees that are decades old, that weigh-in at a few hundred grammes (Excludig pot and soil). And I have trees that can not easily be lifted, bringing in tens of kilos.
Considering a mature oak may weigh tens of tonnes, and a bonsai several kilos, but mostly <50Kgs you could just include a factor 100-1000.
Bonsai, naturally, not being the natural growing form.A lot of work goes into keeping them small. It is not them adjusting naturally. Some of my trees grow 2 metres per year, if I accumulate the trimmings over the season
Thanks for your post and explanation.
You are quite right, THE weight of a bonsai does not exist (and neither THE weight of a full-grown tree). Nonetheless, if you do a comparison in this way, and you do that many times (say 100x), you would get a fairly good idea of the range of the differences. And I could well imagine that the range you mention is a good guestimate. However, a guestimate remains a guestimate....
Moreover, what you measure when you feel how heavy your trees are is the wet weight, so including all the water that the plant contains. Most ecologists will dry the plants first and report dry weight, so then the comparison would be incorrect, as they are measured in different ways. That was my reason to ask you about the actual stem volumes of plants...
Our bonsai trees are not stunned in growth, they are trimmed back to proportion.
I think more accurate study objects is naturally stunned trees. For excample here in sweden we have pine bogs. Pines growing in wet peat can be just a meter in hight and hundreds of years old, that without ever beeing prunned.
I have a member in my bonsai club that has a 120 years old litterati pine that are probably less than 100 grams. I have a massive 50 year old rhododendron bonsai in making that are most likelly closet to 10 kilos. That is a factor of 100 just between two bonsai. But I am sure if you look into it more you can find the factor 1000 between two bonsai of similar age and species.