June 6, 2022

Recapping the 1st Annual Columbus Bonsai Society Invasive Yamadori Dig with the Columbus Metro Parks

Source Material: April 2022

            As spring continues to hum right into summer here in Ohio, let's continue our series on the invasive honeysuckle species common in the eastern US. As already outlined in the previous article in the series, several distinct species of invasive honeysuckle (genus Lonicera) are similar in their characteristics, similarly suitable for bonsai, and have even yielded some show-quality bonsai specimens by prominent artists. These species are the Japanese honeysuckle/Lonicera japonica, Amur honeysuckle/Lonicera maackii, Morrow's honeysuckle/Lonicera morrowii, and Tatarian honeysuckle/Lonicera tatarica (see here for more info on these species and their bonsai suitability). Furthermore, the fact that these species are invasive makes them a doubly attractive candidate for practicing collection of wild bonsai due to their abundance and the many interested landowners who are eager to be rid of them! The topic of collecting these wild prebonsai specimens brings us to today's topic - recapping the creation of a collaborative event with the Columbus Metro Parks to remove these unwanted invasive honeysuckles from city parkland and save them for members of the Columbus Bonsai Society (CBS). This event focused on invasive species removal could be a model for bonsai practitioners in areas where public land does not normally permit tree collection and for those who live in urban areas without access to private land for wild bonsai collection. 


  1. Invasive Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica & related species.) for Bonsai (last time)
    1. Examples of Honeysuckle Bonsai
    2. Identifying Candidate Honeysuckle for Bonsai
    3. Observations & Comments on their Suitability as Bonsai
      1. Ability to Ramify
      2. Response to Trunk Chops
      3. Wood Durability/Deadwood
      4. Wiring Branches
      5. Shallow Root Systems
  2. Recapping the first annual Columbus Bonsai Society Invasive Yamadori Dig with the Columbus Metro Parks (this time)
    1. Event Motivation & Creation
    2. Event/Collected Trees Album
    3. Event Potential for Future Years
  3. Invasive Trees & Shrubs with Known Bonsai Potential (next time)
  4. Blog Announcements
  5. References

The botany professor-style hat proves function > fashion whether digging in the sun or rain! Also pictured, my new 8-foot honeysuckle raft which occupied the entire length of my SUV. This is one bonsai that will likely just live at home permanently, or perhaps in the future, I will divide it into 2 trees that are more portable.

I. Event Motivation & Creation

            While the Western US is known in the bonsai community for its wide expanses of public land which often issue transplant permits from local ranger stations, many states in the US do not have that luxury. During my time in Seattle, I collected extensively in the National Forests in Washington and therefore was accustomed to that system when I moved to Ohio. However, I have since found that Ohio's Wayne National Forest and State Forest Land would not issue transplant or special use permits to collect trees, even when pitched as an educational event for the public through the Columbus Bonsai Society. It was only when I started looking into the removal of invasive trees that I got any traction from public landowning agencies here. Invasive species of plants tend to establish themselves most firmly in human-disturbed environments and are therefore especially concentrated in urban areas. Local government agencies often dedicate their staff or work with volunteer groups to try to preserve or restore natural ecosystems including species diversity, and therefore regularly make efforts to cull invasive species from certain public lands such as parkland. In order to clear an area of offending species, damage to the native ecosystem is minimized via manual removal. This means having individuals trained in recognizing the invasive species remove them by hand - either by cutting them back to the ground (a temporary solution as many will sprout from the roots and grow again) or by completely removing the entire plant including the roots (Source, Source). In the latter case, therein lies the opportunity for bonsai artists.

            Armed with this knowledge, I searched for groups doing invasive plant removal around Columbus which is how I became in contact with the Columbus Metro Parks. A few emails later, and voila! We had a date, location, and target species set which would be easy to train CBS members to identify on the day of the event.

II. Event/Collected Trees Album

            On the day of the event on a Saturday morning, I woke up to nippy borderline-frost-inducing temperatures hovering just above 32F. Accompanying this was also the threat of rain but luckily once I got to the park we only saw a handful of raindrops and snowflakes for the rest of our dig time. The weather certainly scared off a good number of our CBS members who wanted to attend but at least the weather was just hospitable enough for those who were able to come to get their trees and get home to warm up! Unfortunately, Ohio's spring weather is always a gamble as our last day for historic frost risk is in mid-May. Hopefully, we will have better luck next year with more accommodating weather, but all in all, we had a good first year! The photos below show the trees which our members were able to dig, courtesy of the Columbus Metro Parks' permission and supervision.

Jerome spotted this oddball honeysuckle growing adjacent/on top of the root flare of a mature native tree.

Dane with a future shohin honeysuckle. I was pointing out examples of potential trees, including those with interesting trunk movement.

Dan trunk chopping a honeysuckle with a nice nebari. This one could become a future formal/informal upright or clump, depending on which backbuds are allowed to grow.

Mouse pictured trenching and leveraging out this clump style honeysuckle.

Jerome's haul of honeysuckle. They often develop fine nebari!

My chosen target - a large raft honeysuckle with some natural hollow areas.

A closeup of the natural deadwood hollow on the trunk of the raft honeysuckle.

Trench in progress! It was a muddy day to dig but that makes it a bit easier for the rootball to stick together. Also noteworthy: there was a native buckeye tree going adjacent to this specimen which I had to carefully dig around.

Here is the rootball all bundled up for the journey home. My wrapping tools of choice were a black contractor bag as these are very durable and electrical tape to make the bag grip the rootball tightly.

Lastly, a picture of myself with the big tree.

III. Event Potential for Future Years

            I'm pleased to share that the first annual CBS Invasive Yamadori Dig was a smashing hit! Several mature honeysuckles were removed from a local Columbus park, preventing the production and release of hundreds of seeds; meanwhile, several lucky bonsai artists are now watching their buds pop and start to train these specimens as bonsai. We are already looking forward to ways we can improve the event for next year such as advertising the event more widely to the public to get non-CBS members participating and using these plants to start their bonsai journey (learning to water is the first thing to learn anyways!). Another possibility is - as I am already growing a number of native species from seed - we could back-plant native tree seedlings for each invasive tree we remove. This idea is new and of course pending further discussion with Columbus Metro Parks for approval of the exact plant species suitable for our next potential dig site. We are also looking into exploring the use of other local invasive species such as the infamous Callery/Bradford pear (Pyrus calleryana), the white mulberry (Morus alba), or European privet (Ligustrum vulgare) which can also be commonly invasive in our area and all also suitable for bonsai.

IV. Blog Announcements

  • Join the Columbus Bonsai Society for our next meeting at Franklin Park Conservatory on Sunday, June 19th.
    • I will be leading a short presentation/discussion on traditional and modern formal bonsai displays to help club members think ahead for our 50th annual club show which will be in September
    • Following the brief presentation, there will be a Bring Your Own Tree session where all members are invited to bring trees to work on and get advice from other members.

V. References

Controlling Non-Native Invasive Plants in Ohio Forests: Bush Honeysuckle. (n.d.). Retrieved June 3, 2022, from https://ohioline.osu.edu/factsheet/F-68
Kenny, P., Rae, E., Roemer, N., Straubing, A., & Svoboda, C. (2013). Invasive Bush Honeysuckle Removal Coalition Proposal [Working Paper]. https://kb.osu.edu/handle/1811/58452

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