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Re: [aroid-l] Artificial Trees

At 6:26 PM -0500 1/8/03, Harry Witmore wrote:
Thanks Craig, the epiphyte displays at Faichild are exactly what I'm going for. They are very convincing. I will let you all know how it goes when I get started.

Harry, et al.,

A couple of points on other responses that I've been reading, and then I think that I will have said all that I need to say and will bow out.

I, unfortunately, have not been to Fairchild in a good many years, and though Craig was there in the late 80's when I was last there, and it was a pleasure meeting him and being shown around, I don't recall much in the way of artificial trees - not to say that there weren't any - I just have a great memory of some of the particular plant species I was lusting after at the time, and some nice material growing on rockwork instead.

Anyhow, two things that Craig's writing prompt me to comment on - the first would have been prompted by several other responses as well. I want to be very clear that the process I was describing previously is "constructing" an artificial tree from the outside in. In some ways, especially in preparation, it perhaps takes more work (arguable), but from the time you've put the pieces of cork together, you know what the finished product is going to look like - a distinct advantage I think. The other, and perhaps even stronger advantage of this method over gluing and screwing cork onto a structure is that there are no hiding places for pests under the bark. The main large tree that I worked with before I started building my own, was the central tree in the rainforest simulation at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. Now admittedly, with this example as well as with several other art. trees and draped walls, I 'm looking at installations where there are animals in the exhibit, and therefore food, but the most frustrating thing for me with the gaps between cork and mounting substrate was the bug problem. Working with mounting bark onto any kind of premade support structure, given the nature of cork, is going to mean using lots of impressively small pieces, or having gaps of moist dark space between bark and substrate. Having seen the results of this in terms of some of the inhabitants of these spaces and the damage they can inflict to new root and shoot growth, I'll avoid this method if I can. I understand that it is the way most art. trees are constructed, and that many people are very satisfied with the results. Just my two cents of input.

The other point that I would make may be just as frustrating, but I would say that although I understand Craig's point about the fissures in the bark largely disappearing over time, I meticulously try to match up not only fissures but also, to the extent possible, even the shading of the cork bark tubes that I put together. The two questions/comments that were commonly heard once the tree at UNC Charlotte was completed were
how did we get that huge tree into the conservatory, and how did they build that conservatory around the tree without killing it?
The tree is some ten plus years old now I guess, and although there are over 100 plants growing on it representing I think somewhere in the twenties the number of different families, there's still a fair amount of the bark visible. And I do think that it's the fissures that are the final fooling point in convincing folks that it might just be a real tree. Even with the three foot long branches I'm working with now, each with a fork in it to provide a planting crotch as well as essentially three stretches of branch to plant on, I stressed with my volunteers who helped me put them together how important "the look" of the bark was to the finished product. And as strange as it may sound, I've even had several different folks involved in the construction work around the greenhouses ask me what those things are that I'm growing that have the yellow labels on the ends (the yellow "labels" are the plastic-painted rebar ends so that I have hanging tabs for the branches, both in the greenhouses and for putting on benches to wheel into classrooms, and I actually haven't gotten any epiphytes mounted onto these "branches" yet, so all these guys are seeing are very convincing unplanted cork bark tubes.) So, for me, while it may be that a year or two after planting you will or won't be able to tell any difference, but I'm very pleased that for alot of "average folks" on the street, even with no planting my branches and trees might as well be alive.

Good Growing and good luck raising these artificial structures - regardless of your approach, the outcome of bringing us one step closer to feeling like we're in the tropics, in the rainforest, is good for us and good for our plants.


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