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SOLVED: Bonsai ID?

Exeter, United Kingdom

Hello! I recently acquired a bonsai, and I need to know its species--most importantly, whether it is a tropical plant or a deciduous one, so as to know whether it requires a dormancy period or not... I feel terrible for not having read up more about bonsai prior to the purchase, it was an impulse buy as I've been dreaming about owning a bonsai for a long time and just snatched it when I got the first chance... I did ask the shopkeeper whether or not it required any special care, and all he told me about was watering by immersion which apparently isn't a great recommendation to begin with. Since then, I've been to two gardening shops, and both have given me information that seemed questionable when held up against what I researched online, and I really don't know where else to go! I am truly sorry if I'm in the wrong place.

Anyways, enough about that! Here's what it looks like:

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Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

Haven't yet determined what your tree is….but this is a site that I had been to , and they have some pretty good info. Just wanted to share it. :-)

Love the form of yours. :-)

Exeter, United Kingdom

Thank you for the link, that site has some really great information! I bookmarked it.
Yes, I love its shape too--it really stood out to me when I first saw it at the shop with all the other bonsai for sale. I just hope I'll be able to maintain it!

Calgary, AB(Zone 3b)


Jacksonville, FL(Zone 9a)

I had also considered Ficus, but is it just me? Or do the leaves appear kind of 'fuzzy'? Not sure if it's the picture, or actually the leaf… PixelChixel, do the leaves feel a bit 'fuzzy' or smooth?

San Francisco, CA

I have looked at this plant several times; I am not sure, but it seems like a quince to me. Look at "Japanese quince": Chaenomeles or "European quince" Cydonia. I am quite certain is a deciduous tree. I am somewhat less certain, but still, I do not think it is a fig.

Exeter, United Kingdom

The leaves feel smooth!

I looked at pictures of Japanese quince, but those have slightly jagged edges, while my plant has smooth edges.
The images of European quince that I found do look more like the leaves on my plant, albeit they seem to be more veiny...

I'm trying to upload more pictures of the leaves in different lighting... as soon as I get them on my computer, I'll post them.

Exeter, United Kingdom

Here they are! Should I take other pictures?

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Municipality of Murr, PA

Hi, Pixelchixel,
Looks like a Ficus benjamina to me. They are often made into bonsai.
If you search for Ficus benjamina bonsai you will see many examples of this tree made into bonsai, as they are forgiving even for beginners. Yes, there is a variegated form as well.

Exeter, United Kingdom

SoooSirius--At first I thought you were spot on, as the trunks and leaves I saw on Google seemed more like the ones on my plant than the previous suggestions. However, I noticed that that my plant's leaves are not glossy and hard like ficus (rather, they are mostly matte, and rather soft to the touch), nor do they end in acuminate tips... would this be normal for a cultivar of ficus?

I have been leaving my window open and my bonsai (together with my venus fly trap) on the window sill for a while now. When I know I'll be home before sunset, which is rare, I leave a fluorescent light on above it, in the hopes that it might compensate somewhat the fact that the light from outside is filtered through glass and clouds. I have read that ficus is sensitive to cold, but we've been having weather lower than 60 degrees Fahrenheit. Once in a while I take the odd brown or yellow leaf off my bonsai, and some otherwise healthy-looking leaves have mysterious cuts through them, but apart from these things (which I have noticed since before I exposed it to the cold), the bonsai seems fine. Some new growth has sprouted recently, even, and as seen in the pictures, there is a seedling that looks to be alive and thriving.

I suppose it could just be a particularly hardy tropical plant, so really I don't want to rush to the conclusion that it is a temperate one just because it appears to handle the cold well...

Thank you very much for your help; if you folks need any more information or pictures or anything of my bonsai, please let me know and I will provide! Your judgment is invaluable to me and my plant...

San Francisco, CA

this is definitely *not* a form of F. benjamina, but it must still be considered that it could be another Ficus.

I will point out that there are many dozens of forms of both quinces, and their leaves vary in size, shape, form, dentition, and "veininess".

Additionaly, the bonsai technique further stunts and alters leaves.

More picturs of the growing point, and the underside of a leaf would be helpful. At this time I do think you have a common quince.

Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

What I'm noticing are the lenticels which are common in Ficus. I don't know which species but I'd put it in there.

San Francisco, CA

Does it bleed milky sap when cut?

Exeter, United Kingdom

Thank you, growin and Vestia!

Vestia: I made a cut through the bark to the green tissue directly beneath it and no sap of any sort flowed out. Should I make a deeper cut?

Here are some pictures of the underside and top of several (damaged) leaves I pulled off the plant, as well as pictures of the tops and undersides of the leaves still on the tree (the last two pictures, where you can see the blue sky, were taken from beneath the branches; the one where the leaves appear darker is from the top).

Unfortunately, I wasn't able to get a high-quality shot of the leaves on the tree and I forgot to get the pictures of the growing points while it was still light out. I'll see if I can do both tomorrow. (I assume the growing points are the tips of the branches?)

As to the leaves on my hand: I guess the leaf fragments aren't much use, but I included them so you could get a better idea of the aspect of the undersides compared to the top of the leaf. The large, whole leaf on my hand is pretty much intact and was one of the largest leaves on the bonsai.

Incidentally, I'm pretty sure there are several pests on my plant. I keep finding cobweb-like material between the branches, and I've seen little white bugs walking around, not to mention the damaged leaves. I'll have to see about pesticides this weekend...

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San Francisco, CA

wait! wait! Opposite leaves!
Not a Ficus, not a quince....

Exeter, United Kingdom

I'm really sorry that this is turning out to be so much work...

Opp, AL(Zone 8b)

Bougainvillea? Probably not. You may want to post on the house plant forum also.

No need to apologize. People love a good mystery.

Exeter, United Kingdom

purpleinopp: Thank you so much for that link! I made a thread there as well.
I really hope they do, otherwise I'll probably never find out what my plant is! :P

Toronto, ON(Zone 6b)

I think that it is a privet.

Exeter, United Kingdom

Robb: Thanks for your input! The privet leaves I'm seeing on Google seem a bit longer in shape compared to the ones on my tree, though...

I am trying to transfer some more pictures of my bonsai's branches and leaves and will post them as soon as I can.

Exeter, United Kingdom

Here they are! I tried to zoom into the branch tips, but my cellphone camera wouldn't have any of it... being from a different angle than the previous pictures I uploaded, I hope that these might still be helpful...

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Magnolia, TX(Zone 8b)

where was your bonsai shop located and from where does he order? might give you a starting point for climate req'ments if you can find it...

Exeter, United Kingdom

I bought the bonsai here in Exeter, from a man who set up his stand in my university one Friday with loads of plants to sell, mostly things like heliconias, ferns (including something that I think was an asparagus fern), venus fly traps, cacti and bonsai like mine. I never saw the guy or his stand again, and I have no clue as to where the main store is... I'd guess somewhere around here, though.

My venus fly trap's label, which I still have, was produced by Floramedia: . I don't know if this is any help, since I suppose stores buy these labels after the plants have arrived at their store. But if that's not the case, and the labels arrive at flower shops together with the label from another supplier, then I think we can be sure that it originated in the UK.

Municipality of Murr, PA

Huh. I never thought of quince, but the bonsai quince I have seen have thorns. You didn't mention thorns. And without milky sap it sure isn't ficus. Could it be a Lonerica of some kind?

What say the Lonerica experts?

Exeter, United Kingdom

Nope, my bonsai doesn't have thorns!
I'd be super thrilled if it was a kind of honeysuckle :D

Toronto, ON(Zone 6b)

Fron the photos of the underside and the way the leaf bruises... and the leaves growing in opposite formation; I still think it is some form of privit.

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Municipality of Murr, PA

Interesting choice, Zoneimpaired.
Searching for this application, I found lots of pictures and these articles:
and there are some close-up pictures of the leaves for comparison.

Since Privet (Ligustrum) is also used as rootstock for lilacs, could this also be a type of Lilac?

Pixelchixel will have to keep us posted! :D

Oooh, waiting is so HARD!! ; )

Exeter, United Kingdom

Robb: Sorry I didn't reply earlier, I was waiting for another pro to jump in the discussion :P At this point, I can't do much more than say what I think based on Google searches and answer all of your questions about my plant. Is there any definitive "privet test" I could run? Like the ficus one where I checked if it had milky sap?

Soosirius: Hahaha! :D
Yes, those really do look similar to mine... the leaves seem a bit dark in the pictures, even on bonsai, but that might not be really relevant.

Searching ligustrums and privets on Google, I found this picture which really reminds me of the leaves on my tree:
From this website:
The pictures on this website did as well:

They're from Ligustrum sinense, apparently; not all pictures of this species that I'm finding on Google remind me of my plant, but some of the bonsai seem really strikingly similar to my my own--to my untrained eyes, anyways.

What do you think?

As always, if you need any more pictures or descriptions of my tree, anything at all, just tell me and I'll deliver!

Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

I think the Ligustrum (Privet) ID is on-track. The undersides of the leaves have that yellow-dulled green with the edge of the leaf curled under. I noticed the lenticels in the pf pics. from PalmBob shows that it is used as a Bonsai. Ligustrum japonicum looks good.

Exeter, United Kingdom

Should I mark this thread as solved then? :)

Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

It's up to you. If you're satisfied with the suggestions, close it. If it doesn't quite fit, we can continue to work on it.

Exeter, United Kingdom

I am pretty happy with the privet suggestion. Even if I'm not sure which specific species it is, it's enough to know that I should keep my window open and the room as cool as possible during the winter. This is nice because my venus fly trap needs the same!

Thank you all SO much for all of your help, and for sticking with this thread despite it being nearly a month old! I couldn't have done it without you! My plant says thanks as well :P

Beautiful, BC(Zone 8b)

If it was my plant, I`d take it outside and give it a good hose-down to wash any dust, spider-mites, etc off.

Exeter, United Kingdom

I'll see what I can do! I live in a tiny university accommodation, which is why I can't even leave my bonsai properly outside! I might be allowed to use a hose if I ask nicely, and if they even have one here... otherwise, I have a spray bottle with a really powerful jet-spray, which I suppose is the next best thing... At any rate, it's really nice to know that there is a chemical-free way to deal with these pests. Thank you once again, growin!

I talked to my mother and she said she'll be coming at the end of November, and then she will probably take my plants home with her. At her house, the bonsai and my venus fly trap will be able to stay in a south-facing garden, with the right kind of sunlight and temperature for dormancy :)

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