Cork Bark Oak – A Brief History

Gene Lynch is a Veterinarian by career and bonsai hobbyist by love of trees and the Japanese art form. Gene is a founding member of the Redwood Empire Bonsai Society (REBS), Santa Rosa, California, which was established in 1981. However, Gene was much involved in bonsai long before REBS. In 1966, he collected acorns from the public street in Novato, California. The acorns came from wonderful Cork Bark Oaks (Quercus suber) that lined the street. Gene took the acorns to his home in Petaluma, California and planted them. This was the start of several specimen bonsais.

In November 2020, Gene announced “Unfortunately, I am not longer able to care for the bonsai trees in my collection. I have nearly 80 trees, many of which are show quality. Among the trees that I will be selling are collected junipers, oaks, grove plantings, and many other trees both deciduous and evergreen. Trees will be shown by appointment only.” And, the sale of Gene’s bonsai collection began immediately afterwards.

One of Gene’s Cork Bark Oaks was labeled “NFS” (Not for Sale) and earmarked for donation to the Golden State Bonsai Federation (GSBF) Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt (BGLM), in Oakland, California.

This particular oak was selected by the BGLM curator Kathy Shaner to be a permanent part of the bonsai garden collection. The bonsai is small to medium in size. Its trunk is twisted with lots of movement for its size. The cork bark is thick and pronounced. Its canopy well shaped and styled. It is a powerful, very masculine bonsai.

In the winter of 1989 – 1990, the freeze in Petaluma lasted two weeks. All but one little branch died as a result. It sprouted out of what remained of the trunk. Gene trained a new top from the upper most sprouts. Gene did most of the styling to the Cork Bark Oak.

On December 4, 2020, Gene said final good bye to his Cork Bark Oak. The bonsai was delivered to the BGLM the same date. Upon arrival, Kathy Shaner, Director Gordon Deeg and Volunteer Bob Gould marveled at the Cork Bark Oak. The bonsai will undergo examination by Kathy, added to the collection’s inventory and placed in a prominent display site. It will be repotted in early spring and likely be given a new, distinctive pot.

Further information about BGLM can be found at its website  Bonsai Garden at Lake Merritt – Museum of masterpiece bonsai. (

Gene Lynch and his Cork Bark Oak, December 4, 2020, Petaluma, CA, U.S.A.
Photo by Laurel Lynch

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