Pinus bungyana - a challenge

I purchased this 25 to 30 year old pinus from someone who grew it from seed but has lost interest in continuing to care for it. I don’t believe the grower had any Bonsai experience but he was certainly open to experimentation. The first picture shows the trunk as purchased, horizontal across rock.

My first thought was to make it vertical, to showcase the bark. The roots are very flexible. The tree appears to be in good health with shaping achieved by pinching and pruning. There is no indication that any wiring has taken place.

The roots and the branches have all been trimmed from side of the trunk which was against the rock.


There are a number of whorled branches and needles thickening branches and so many other problems. I am assuming it should be treated like a Japanese White Pine. There is some back budding in evidence.
I want to let it grow out and encourage more back budding. I am also considering air layering the top.
And then there is this stretch of damaged bark. I didn’t spot it initially in the gloomy lighting of the church hall. It almost appears to be burnt. Does anyone recognize it as a disease or insect damage of which I should be aware?!

I have had possession for less than one month and have only fertilized and done a needle pull to balance growth. When should I remove some of the misdirected and out of scale branches?

I am a sucker for a rescue mission!
Thank you for your opinions!

Hard to say what the dark patch is, but it could be physical damage from getting bumped or scraped at some point.

I’d hesitate to start a layer unless there’s precedent for it working on this species. That said, improving the roots will be a challenge.

As for the rest of the tree, I’d try to work with one or two sections of the trunk (the lowest part) and re-grow the rest of the trunk using a low branch to continue the trunkline. I’d expect this to be a fairly long-term project!

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Pinus Bungeana or Lace Bark Pine is primarily noted for the exfoliating bark as it matures.
This specimen has several difficult attributes when it comes to presenting it as a Bonsai.
Typically the roots, base and trunk form are very important in quality Bonsai. As well the bark is notably damaged on this specimen.

If you wish to work with this tree, i would suggest repotting in a bit larger container this spring and focussing on improving its health overall before removing any foliage or branches. The stronger and more vigorous the tree is the better opportunity to work on the tree successfully.
If possible and i am not sure that it is, i would ground layer the lower part of the trunk to form a new root base, then chop lower and regrow the tree. Unfortunately this species is a slower growing type and it would be a long process.

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Thank you both for your thoughts and recommendations.

I accept that this tree is unlikely to ever become a traditional bonsai but I see it as a long term project with a great opportunity to learn on a relatively mature specimen. It is my first and only pine. I am hoping to learn more about the history of the tree later this month.
While I appreciate your suggestion of regrowing the tree from a new base, my first inclination is to accept the existing root base as part of the history of the tree and to work with it. The flexibility of the roots has made me wonder if they can be integrated and thickened in a new root-over-rock planting. I have assumed that a rock may have been removed from between the roots.

Another site suggested that exfoliation can begin after 10 years but no season for that activity was indicated. Will the damaged bark area heal with time? Would exfoliation speed or delay the healing process?
Is air-layering of pines not recommended in general or is this a slower growing type amongst the species?
Thank you again.

I completely agree with keeping the base - I was thinking of reducing the top half of the trunk so you could work with the lowest part of the tree and introduce movement in the upper portion.

Air-layering isn’t a common technique among pines. It can work with some species, but I have no idea how it would work with the bungeana.

I’d wait for the tree to start showing signs of exfoliation before peeling the bark away. If the bark falls away naturally, there will be no damage to the tree.

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