By Jerry Meislik
Journal Contributing Editor
(Whitefish, Montana)


       In nature figs fuse branches to branches, aerial roots to trunks, aerial roots to branches and perhaps many other combinations of plant parts can fuse. This is nature’s way of self-grafting. Essentially any parts of a fig can fuse if the parts are forced to grow into each other and are not allowed to grow and push themselves apart.

        Photo 1. Fusion of upper aerials to lower branches in a fig tree in Hawaii




             In cultivation many larger imported bonsai Ficus are in fact created by using several smaller figs that are bound together and allowed to fuse or grow together. This is done to utilize inexpensive, inferior stock that can be fairly rapidly converted into more mature and finished trees or to correct for missing branches, thin branches, missing roots or to thicken a thin trunk.

            Fusion is in reality just another form of grafting but without needing to prepare a receiving host bed for the new grafted material. Simply nature is allowed to grow the plants together.

          Photo 2. Ficus microcarpa 'Rainforest' showing aerial roots fused to the right side of the trunk.   See the history of this tree http://www.bonsaihunk.us/info/RainforestFicus.htm


          Obtain or grow multiple small trees, preferably cuttings from one tree or clone. In that way the parts will be alike in all respects; bark color, leaf size and shape will be the same.

          Do not use random seed grown Ficus or figs from various sources as their bark color and other characteristics will vary and the final creation may look "unusual".

         Photo 3.  Illustrating two different leaves on a fused fig using dissimilar materials


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           The trees are removed from their pots and kept intact. Branches and roots that interfere with the positioning of the trees next to each other are removed. Trees are secured to each other with plastic wrapping twine that does not stretch or anything else that is not elastic. Try to get the trunks as close to each other as possible by shifting the various trunks around. Perform this activity out of the sun and wind and make sure to keep the roots moist during this process as it can take quite a while to get the trees positioned and secured. Often a second set of hands proves useful in manipulating 5-10 trees and the securing twine.

           Pot the trees without doing any shaping or trimming, other than the minimal amount required to bring the trees as close to each other as possible. Do not plant them into a small bonsai container but a moderately large container that will allow them to grow as quickly as possible. Allow the trees to grow vigorously and do not trim any growth off the trees for a year or longer.

           Over 12-18 months the trees will grow and fuse into each other. Some of the smaller trees may eventually die in the center of the grouping but that is fine as the dead trunks will be overgrown by the living  trunks. Do not remove any of the dead trunks as these will become overgrown by the living trunks and will be part of the final composition.  Do not fertilize for two weeks after potting and keep the tree out of direct sun and wind. After that, the trees can be moved to as bright a light as possible, fertilized and cared for to allow maximum growth.

           After 12-24 months of uncontrolled growth, you can inspect the tree by undoing the tape to see if the fusion process is going well. The binding tape must be re-applied if the trees appear loose or the composition needs more fusion. Once the trees fuse completely the tape can be removed and the branches shaped with wire. The trunk itself cannot be bent as the movement will break apart the fused trunks.

         Photo #7 was taken after 9 years of growth.  The top half of the tree is well fused and further fusion of the lower trunk will occur with time. Shaping the branches is done only after the trees are well along. Often each little tree represents or forms one branch in the finished tree.


            Photo #8 of a Willow Leaf Fig formed from multiple small trees.  Photo #9 shows aerial roots taped to the trunk to thicken the lower trunk and improve the surface rootage. Sometimes a trough is made in the trunk that will allow the root to be more easily incorporated into the trunk.

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              Mature aerial roots with woody surface can be fused to the trunk to thicken the trunk as well. To create a fabulous superficial root system simply bind the aerial to the trunk and wait. In time the aerials will fuse to the trunk and help to thicken the trunk both physically and visually. Large mature aerials are uprooted from the soil,  moved to the trunk, bark and outer wood can be removed from the inner, tree side, of the aerial and then secured tightly to the trunk with twine, or even nailed to the trunk. Replant the base of the aerial into the soil and allow growth to continue.    The schematic set shows how aerial roots (in red) are moved to the trunk and along the soil surface to improve rootage and thicken the trunk


             In the same way multiple thin branches can be bound together to form one appropriately sized branch or trunk.   Photo #13 taken in Vietnam show multiple thin branches bound together to form a trunk and branches


           An aerial root can be fused to the lower trunk to create a better root base or nebari.


          Fusion is an easy technique to improve your trees. Give it a try on your figs. The key is to secure the parts to fuse together with a non-stretching material that is broad enough not to scar the bark. Allow the trees unrestrained growth and provide the best care you can and the rest will be done by the tree.   Let me know how it goes for you!

         - - - Jerry  (jerry@bonsaihunk.us)

***  Return to the September 2013 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
***  Go to Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation website
***  Go to Fuku-Bonsai website
        ©  Jerry Meislik,  Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation, and Fuku-Bonsai, 2013