Narrowleaf Firethorn Bonsai

Narrowleaf Firethorn Bonsai

Roots over Rock © 2011 Bo Mackison

This Narrowleaf Firethorn Bonsai was one of the more unusual specimens in the courtyard exhibit at the Chicago Botanic Garden. The roots of the Firethorn have been carefully trained to grow around a large rock.

How does one train tree roots to grow around a rock? The horticulturists at the botanic gardens explain. Roots of bonsai can be trained as intricately as the branches. The rock and roots are both buried in the soil when the tree is a sapling. Then, gradually, the soil is removed and the flexible young roots are trained to form around the shape of the rock as they continue to grow downward. The roots are usually trained to follow crevices and fissures on the rock, creating form on form.


Bo Mackison is a photographer and the owner of Seeded Earth Studio LLC. She has just finished the longest art show stint of the summer, and now will spend the next three weeks entertaining out-of-town family and catching up on many photo projects.

About Bo Mackison

I'm a photographer, book-artist, traveler, naturalist, and creator of the Contemplative Creatives Journey, An Online Workshop and Community and Desert Wisdom Cards and Workshops. Though often not well known, I find the desert a welcoming place - a healing space. Its mysteries and gifts transformed me several years ago. Since that first encounter, I return again and again to fill my well in what most people think of as a desolate region. I'd love to share my desert discoveries and wisdom with you. Please subscribe to receive my five part mini email course The Gifts of the Desert. It's my gift to you.


  1. That’s amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever seen bonsai where the roots were trained as well as the branches.

    • Bo Mackison says:

      I had never seen a bonsai with its roots trained over a rock either. I think it’s very interesting.

  2. Joanne Keevers says:

    How clever! I had to read your explanation to actually see what the base of the tree was. I couldn’t work it out at first. Aren’t bonsai tree growers incredibly knowledgable people? 🙂

  3. Very nice photo, amazing tree

  4. This is amazing!! The roots are a work-of-art all unto themselves!

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