Burning bonsai

Kill your darlings is an old saying, when you have to discard something you love.

I had to kill my old established award-winning Juniper, Juniperus procumbens. I have grown it from an ordinary nursery stock for more than 17 years.

It became heavily infected by the Cedar-Hawthorn Rust Gall fungus years ago. Unfortunately impossible to cure when first infected as much as this tree. You might be lucky at very early stages removing the infected branches. Cleaning the tools with spirit and destroying the branches by burning them, is essential to avoid spreading the fungus further.

Fatal fungal attack

The Juniper do not suffer much from the fungal attack, but branches do swell up around the area where the fungus grows. It is hidden most of the year underneath the bark, and shows up when spring temperatures increases and in rainy weather. If removed quickly the damages can be reduced some, but not fully. It might even not be visible for a long period if foliage can hide the attacked area. Or it might ruin the design totally.

I tried to remove all possible attacked branches last year and jinned those. A new design was necessary to develop a future bonsai.

What happened was, that the fungus, obviously at sleep at other part of the tree, just popped up at new places.

It smashed all my plans of recovery and a new design. Only one way to go now for more reasons.

I also didn’t want to risk the fungus spreading to my other Juniper bonsai. And I most certainly did not want to spread the fungus to other peoples bonsai. The risk is minimal when the fungus is asleep, but you might carry on some spores. One or the other way. Having workshops in my garden also would endanger students trees getting infected.

The bon(sai)fire

The design and future of the tree was ruined, so I decided to burn the tree to get rid of the problem. A necessary sacrifice.

Burning is the only way to be one hundred percent sure, that the fungus is gone. Putting the tree at the compost is no go. The fungus can be asleep for years and turn up again, spreading it spores, finding new hosts for its life. Also do not put it in the garbage bin, or at the junkyard. It doesn’t remove the fungus, just relocates it.

Well. Shit happens. Kill your darlings, and move on. Other trees are now safe and sound.

I used the rest of the fire, to put in two fresh rolls of copper wire needing to be annealed. Making use of what was gone.


One Comment

  • Romayne

    I’ve unfortunately got a town yard so no opportunity to burn anything let alone one of my trees, but suspect at least one (cotoneaster) has a fungal infection – it lost almost all its leaves over winter for the first in the 3 years I’ve had it, then started pushing out new growth in Spring only to start losing those leaves a week or two later – it’s barely hanging on and I’m probably killing it rather than helping it in my vain attempts to treat the hidden killer. Nervous as you say if it is fungal that my remaining trees might end up going the same way :(. Still – it must be gutting in the least to lose a much older established tree you’ve invested so much in :(.

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