Grafting Cross-Genera Species: Chamaecyparis on Cupressus

Earlier this year we tried a Hinoki graft on a Yellow Cedar, just to see if it would take. It did.

For the most part, we tend to assume grafting within the same genus. White pine onto Black pine (for smaller needle). Apple onto apple (for different varieties of fruit).

Grafting compatibility, though, can stretch a bit further than those listed in the same genus. We can get a semi-dwarf pear tree by grafting normal, tree-sized pear onto quince, which is a smaller plant with a smaller root system. And that keeps the pear smaller.

For bonsai we may wish to ‘change the clothes’ of the tree for a higher foliage quality. This is changing one foliage genetic for another. Denser, tighter growth is one of the more common choices. The scion is what we’re grafting with, and the stock is what we’re grafting onto.

So with this test we decided to try a perennial favorite, Hinoki cypress ‘Nana’ (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’), as our scion. This variety of Hinoki grows more tightly than normal seedling types. We grafted it, out of curiosity, onto Yellow Cedar (Cupressus nootkatensis) stock, a local conifer that keeps getting tossed around by taxonomists like a hot potato as they don’t know what genus it should belong to. Currently many consider it Cupressus.

As an aside…back in the day, when I studied Botany, the structures of seeds and flowers were the prime determiners of genetic alliance. It was essentially visual. Now, DNA similarity is also considered, so there’s a big sea change happening in how everything from birds to plants to even bacteria are organized with each other. Many that looked similar are proving to be not very closely related at all.

In short, we inserted three Hinoki ‘Nana’ scions into a small, collected Yellow Cedar stock plant. We had one graft fail, one on the way to find out (meaning that it took, but not strongly), and a third took strongly.

This was a fun test to explore cross-genus compatibility. Perhaps you’d like to try it on other closely related plants.

Here’s a couple photos of the graft that did well:

The brighter, denser shoot is the Hinoki scion, the grayer, leggier growth is the Yellow Cedar stock plant. The Hinoki is growing, and burst out of the grafting tape (buddy tape) within a few months, which is a sure sign of a good take.

Another shot of it, showing the shari that Yellow Cedar is coveted for.

Grafting is fun! In honor of the 20th Anniversary of Bonsai Empire this month, we did a short primer video on grafting, using juniper as our example:

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Footnote: I should mention that I’m not sold on grafting Yellow Cedar with something else, for while this tree has leggy foliage it can be managed very nicely with pinching to create denser foliage: Yellow Cedar Refinement

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