About a Buttonwood Bonsai Tree Tragedy

The buttonwood bonsai, Conocarpus erectus, (Combretum Family) – is one of the most significant American trees adapted to the art of bonsai.

Most tropical bonsai collections have at least one of these masterpieces of nature. In addition, many artists outside the tropics have gone to great lengths to include this plant in their collection.

Because they come in so many different sizes, shapes and styles naturally, no two are alike and are rarely even similar. On this page, one bonsai artist shares his very special experience.

A Special Buttonwood Bonsai

by Guest Author

Ed Trout, Pembroke Pines, FL

This particular buttonwood has special significance. Firstly, it was acquired from Mary Miller, my dear friend & teacher, and secondly it became one of my favorite trees, a favorite of many who saw it, and it taught me many things about the art of bonsai.

“Yes, a tree can be, and really should be your ultimate teacher. One has to only take the time to “listen!”

This buttonwood was collected from the Florida Keys, where I grew up, and ended up at Mary’s Big 5 nursery, sometime in the late 80’s. I purchased it around 1989 or 1990.

It “spoke” to me the minute I saw it. I know that because I did not buy it when I first saw it on the bench, and thought about it for a whole week. I rushed down there the next weekend, and brought it home.

The tree screamed Literati or Bunjin from the moment I saw it. And with the first styling, the tree seemed to “show me the way”.

It was the cornerstone of my collection, the first tree I said good morning to with a cup of coffee, and the last tree I said goodnight to. It was Tina’s favorite also, and she had me place it in the garden where she could always see it from her chair in the living room.

I’ve always said that trees win awards, not artists. Some of the awards this tree received:

First Runner-up Ben Oki Design Award 1993
Best in Show BSF Convention 1996
Chase Rosade Design Award 1996
Top 100 JAL World Bonsai Contest 1999
World Bonsai Contest Top 100 2006
Selected as Logo Tree Gold Coast Bonsai Society 1997

In April of 2008, this tree, who had become my teacher, and almost a member of our family was stolen from the garden.

To this day, I still get a little choked up when I look at photographs.

I know that sounds silly, since it is only a tree! But that is how we get attached to these trees, and the journey we take together in the Art of Bonsai!

With Anger and Sympathy

When Ed announced the theft of this bonsai, there were many expressions of anger and sympathy. These are just two:

‘The Love of a Buttonwood’

Dear Ed:
Even though I am a northerner, a Buttonwood was my second or third tree, which I still have. I have seen the pictures of that tree before, and marveled at the beauty you created. You can’t give all the credit to the tree.

I hope the thief will _ _ _ , and never be able to enjoy the beauty you created!

Fondest regards, Carl L. Rosner, Southern New Jersey

Inspiration …
This tree has inspired all of us in Gold Coast (Bonsai Society) and for that matter anyone who has seen it. I too get choked up thinking about all the time and energy you spent lovingly caring for this beautiful buttonwood bonsai.

All of the years devoted to this bonsai destroyed by some fool who has no idea, let alone respect, for the journey you have taken with this tree.

I’m glad you posted this photo, because although it may be gone the memory will never fade.

Mike Sullivan, Florida


It is shown here in the five gallon bucket it was first planted in after collecting. (There were holes punched in it for drainage.)

Ed had begun his design.

You can see how it changed and developed over the years.

Where to Go From Here

Other Buttonwood Bonsai Pages:

Have you read the introduction to buttonwood ?

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