Water Elm
Planera aquatica

Height ... 29 inches     Root Base ... 9.5 inches


On August 22, 1993 our group went on a collecting trip to Lake Catahoula, La. Lake Catahoula, located in central Louisiana offers some unique Water Elm (Planera aquatica) collecting. Unlike most collecting that we do, Water Elms have to be collected during the hottest part of the summer in this particular area. Not because we want it that way, but because during the winter months, where I am standing in this picture, there is 10 feet of water. At the end of July the floodgates are opened and the flood plain drained. This means that our window of opportunity for collecting Water Elms is in August, when the tree slows its growth because of the heat. Many a bonsai collector walked past this tree for fear of "heat stoke" digging it. I decided to give it a go, thinking that I would like to have a Water Elm for my front garden at the house. To my surprise, the Water Elm came out of the ground very easily. Balled, burlapped and on the hand dolly, I was off to put the tree in a shady spot in the nearby pond to soak and to hopefully live! The Water Elms growing on the flood plain are naturally stunted and are very old due to the fact that they grow only for 4 months out the year. After the floodplain is drained in July, the nearby residents leave their cattle loose to browse. The cattle love to eat the tops off the Water Elms and this keeps them pruned for us. Although the wood of the Water Elm is very dense, healing scars is extremely slow. Once Water Elms are put into a good draining bonsai soil, they put on growth rapidly.



Here is the Water Elm on March 31, 1994. Seems to have survived the digging "out of season". Take note of the size of this tree; the blue tub is the bottom of a plastic 55 gallon drum. Along the outer edge of the flood plain where the Water Elms are collected, you can see Water Elm forests that do not go under water during the period of flooding because of their location. As you walk through this forest, you get the feeling of walking through "an enchanted forest" with very "wicked" looking trees. Thinking of this, I changed my mind about putting the tree in my garden and started to work with the tree as a bonsai and develop this Water Elm in it's 'natural' style.






Here is a picture of the Water Elm in January 1996 before pruning. The Water Elm was used to
demonstrate pruning techniques at the January 1996 meeting of The Greater New Orleans Bonsai
Society. This picture is not quite the front of the tree; rotate the tree a little right to left.

 

 

These are photos of the Water Elm the summer of 1996.