Advanced Techniques > Advanced Collecting Discussion

Ways to collect elm in rock

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I found a Cedar Elm growing on a property that is being cleared for development over the next few years. It is either growing through this limestone rock or growing in the limestone rock. I can't lift the rock so I am thinking it is growing through or their is much more rock buried. Or I am vastly overestimating my own strength!
1. This trunk is 4" or 5" and looks like pretty great potential to me. Is it worth the work?
2. I have a come-a-long and could try to pull the rock out. If the tap root is growing through then I guess the come-a-long would break it?
3. I can try to shovel under the rock but seems like alot of tunnel work.
4. I could try to chip the rock away and get the tree out of the rock?

I would love to have the tree stay in the rock. My vision would be to cut that rock in half so that it is only a few inches tall, hollow out the rock from the under side to creat space for soil and root work. If I had a better working knowledge of stone work to split the rock down!

If I can get the whole rock out I think I could break away at the rock from the bottom up to make it smaller. Limestone is pretty soft and I have had alot of luck splitting them for landscaping.

Nice find. BTW, do you have permission to dig here? "In a few years" is a long uncertain period...

Obviously, the problem is how much rock you will have to remove to get at the roots and to be able to comfortably handle.

 Some tree collections like this are impossible, even for experts--especially with conifers. However, Cedar Elm is very vigorous and I've collected them after removing 95 percent of their root mass, barerooting and topping them all at once. They've not really had a problem. However, I've been digging trees for almost 20 years, so I can push things a bit.

I'd dig around underneath the rock to find where the roots and rock actually go--they may be involved in the rock extensively, which might mean you can't get ANY roots.

I would NOT collect this anytime soon. Get some actual experience with the species, collection and care of cedar elm bonsai BEFORE you try this one. There aren't many like that around. Killing it after the effort it will take to get it out would be a waste of a nice tree and probably a lot of blood sweat and tears.

Good solid advice. I can get permission I just need to have a plan so I can let them know what I am doing. I will have to give specifics on what I am doing to the property and when. I have a handful of smaller cedar elms collected so those will be a good test case to prepare for this one later this year or a year from now when I am sure of my setup to allow for recovery.

Maybe in the mean time I will just let them know I want to "poke" around with a shovel. The property is being cleared in sections. I will find out how much time this elm has.

If it is 2 years from now then I have time to get some experience and make a plan. I agree that it is not worth a rush for such a promising tree that looks like it has worked REALLY hard to survive in that rock.

If it is going to be bulldozed next month then it's all or nothing!

Larry Gockley:
Lots of really big " if's " here. Do you know how big the rock is, or do you only see the tip of the iceberg? If the rock breaks away from the tree, it may have a badly deformed trunk where it went thru the rock. You will have to tunnel along side at least enough to cut the tap root. The tap root will be almost as big as the trunk. A good side, however, may be that since the rock provided shade and moist soil underneath, there may be a good amount of fine roots under the rock. When I hollow out a rock to plant a tree, etc., I use a 4 1/2 " angle grinder with a ceramic tile cutting disc. You are looking at a lot of work here. Good luck if you try. Larry

Looking at a lot of the limestone rocks I. The area there is a straight hole going through the rock. My assumption is that the tree grew through one of these holes. Since this tree will be bulldozed it seems the safe thing would be to chip away the rock around the base of the trunk and start an air layer. I know that limestone will chip out safely and I should be able to carefully and easily create a few inches of space down from the trunk flare where it is bulging around the hole in the rock. Air layer it. I would do this in spring and have something to take next fall. Good idea/ bad idea?

I can get my hands down under the rock so I am pretty sure the rock is not the tip of the iceberg. The fear is that if you pry the rock up, the tree stays anchored to the ground and the rock rips up through the trunk and trashes the tree.


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