Bonsai

The BARBSDOS CHERRY (Malpighia)

Punicifolia (Dwarf).Coccigera (Singapore–holly) Glabra (Barbados Cherry- Acerola) Pendiculata (weeping malpighia) With rising apartment culture in cities the garden space in homes has almost vanished. Nature lovers still strive to devote a precious small balcony to plants. Bonsai, the Japanese art of trees provides a way of bringing a pices to nature to a nature lovers home. These dwarf trees are a replica of real trees. There are several species of trees that are particularly suitable for making bonsai. One of such popular species is Malpighia- its character, requirements as a bonsai are discussed here. The genus, Malpighia , of the above plants, was named in honour of Italian physician, physiologist and anatomist Marcello Malpighi (1628-1694) He was also a distinguished naturalist at Bologna. Sometimes he is referred to as the father of microscopical anatomy, histology, physiology and embryology and was Pope Innocent XII's (1615-1700) personal physician. This genus is a dwarf evergreen shrub native to Lesser Antilles, curacao and parts of South America. In their native tropical American environment, they may be found in the lower strata of tropical forests or on rocky hill sides near streams where the soil is rich and moist. These plants have evergreen opposite short petioled , spiny toothed leaves with open, pink flowers and red fruits. The above mentioned are the most favoured varieties of malpighia that are used as Bonsai subjects. TEMPERATURE:- As a sub-tropical, Malpighia should not be exposed to temperatures 450 freezing temperatures will kill the bonsai so protect(bring indoors ) when temperatures threaten to drop below 45°F. In order to flower buds a night- time temperature above 60 F is required. Tolerant of any sun position, full sun is best for small leaves, bloom and fruit. However caution should be taken and bonsai should be protected from full sun during the hottest summer months. Five hours of sunlight in the morning during the winter is ideal and in summer they can have filtered sun or shade. If grown inside, the Barbados cherry should have 14-16 hours each day under a grow light. WATERING:- The soil should be allowed to dry out a bit between watering because Malpighia do not like to stay wet. Over watering can cause the leaves to yellow, as will excess sunlight. The exception is the Malpighia coccigera, which prefers heavy watering. Water on the flowers will ruin them so misting is not a good idea. Malpighia pendiaulata and Glabra do not like to stay wet. FERTILIZING:- This bonsai likes heavy feeding in spring and summer months. For optimum bloom, one may use a dilute application daily or a full application once a week. If the leaves begin to yellow give the plant a dose of chelated iron. Organic fertilizers are good. Try to maintain a pH between 6.00 and 7.5. PRUNING/TRAINING:- Malhighia is a versatile bonsai and will take well to almost any style. It is particularily suited to informal upright with multiple or twisted trunks. Clip and grow is very important with this plant. If branches are allowed to get too long, they will shed leaves at the back and have leggy bare growth. Now if this occurs, clip back to the last 2 leaves, it will back bud from this, and one can continue to clip back as the new growth appears. Hence routine pinching of growth is required. Wiring can be used to shape the tree but care should be taken as the branches are fairly brittle. PROPAGATION:- Barbados cherry can be propagated by softwood cuttings in April Malpighia Glalra can be air layered. REPOTTING:- This should be carried out when night time temperatures are atleast in the low to mid 60sF. You can repot at any time between hottest summer months and winters, being careful not to be overly aggressive with root pruning. Malpighia plants are very vulnerable to nematodes so the soil should be pasteurised. A well draining soil is a good choice for this bonsai. Organic material in the soil mix tends to encourage vigorous blooming and fruiting. INSECTS/ PESTS & DISEASES:- This bonsai is fairly resistant to pests like aphids, mites and scale but may occur. Aphids are the most devastating as they primarily attack the young flower buds and leaves. To keep away from this prune to allow light and air into the centre of tree. Allow the soil to dry slightly between watering to prevent root rot. Root nematodes are microscopic but can be detected by the presence of nodules on the roots. These nodules become part of the root because of the nematode invasion. This problem will be easiest to discover during repotting. To eradicate these pests all infected roots must be cut out above the node and after pruning use a weak solution and increase gradually, if necessary. SOME SPECIES OF MALPIGHIA SUITABLE FOR BONSAI:- 1. Malpighia Coccigera- known as Singapore holly, southern holly, florida holly or miniature holly is a native to the west Indies. Its natural form in that of a low shreeb. It has leathery, dark green, glossy holly shaped leaves. Flowers are pale pink – five fringed petals. Tip pruning does not sacrifice bloom as they are all along the branch. Mature growth is woody, with greyish bark somewhat stiff in character. 2. Malpighia Glabra:- Or Barbados cherry(Acerola) has small dark green leaves with pointed ends. In its natural form it can grow to become a small tree 10 to 15 feet tall. Branches are flexible, the flowers are rose pink and fruit is edible, a rich source of vitamin C. 3. Malpighia Pendiculata:- Or weeping Malpighia its natural form is that of a low shrub with pendulous, weeping twigs and branches. The flowers are rose pink, often several together in a ayme. Its fruit is small and inedible. It has a weeping growth habit and leaves are pointed. 4. Malpighia Punicifolia The dwarf variety (punicifolia) is an outstanding bonsai candidate as it flowers freely throughout the year and has beautiful fire engine red coloured fruit. This variety grows to only 2-3 feet and can withstand colder temperatures than other varieties. Because of its small size it is also ideal as a container plant. Smita Mishra Bonsai Artist