Thursday, September 7, 2017

Japanese Maple in the Tropics

Being a deciduous tree, the Japanese maple is indeed adapted for cold climates. Hawaii, as well as other tropical locations, does not provide the best growing environment; yet the trees will grow in these areas. I have one Japanese maple that is now 9 years old. Admittedly, it is not the most vigorous tree, and I think it is continually looking for winter. Sometimes it goes dormant in spring or even in the middle of summer, but it still grows. A question might be, how many years can it survive without experiencing a dormant period?

There are over 1000 cultivars of Japanese maple. Obviously some will adapt to tropical regions better than others. Usually, nurseries select those varieties best suited for their area.

Regardless of the climate, another problem is an insect called Chinese rose beetle. This beetle makes holes in the leaves weakening the tree. 

In the evening, when beetles are feeding, placing a cover or netting over the small trees will exclude the pest. Another choice for control is to use a systemic insecticide with the active ingredient imidacloprid. Granules can be applied to the pots and watered in. 

On this website, I have a detailed report on this pest; search Chinese rose beetle in the space on the left of the screen.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Trouble with Palms

"The bottom fronds of our triangle palm started to die, and then suddenly the whole palm fell over," a friend complained.
A significant pest of Pritchardia palms is the banana moth, Opogona sacchari. The triangle palm is also attacked by this moth. It seems that the female moth targets wounded or stressed palm tissue to lay her eggs. Stresses can include drought, flooding, mechanical wounding, poor nutrition, and herbicide injury. The larvae generally feed on decaying and dead plant tissue but will feed on living tissue, too, causing extensive damage. In affected palms, larval tunneling, along with the characteristic frass (insect droppings), can often be seen. Fully developed caterpillars measure just over an inch. The adults have greyish brown wings are 3/8 to 5/8 inches long.

The main treatment is prevention: keep palms growing well; give them adequate fertilizer, and supplemental water during a drought. Gardeners also need to be careful with the weed wacker! Female moths are looking for wounds to lay their eggs. Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis), an organic insecticide, can be applied to these wounds, as well as those caused during pruning.

For more information about this pest see the CTAHR Cooperative Extension Service publication, “Banana Moth – A Potentially Fatal Pest of Pritchardia and Other Palms”, by Scot Nelson and Mark Wright.  CTAHR stands for the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources at the University of Hawaii. 

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Ohia Trees (Metrosideros sp)

There are four distinct species of ohia tree that are endemic to Hawaii. In addition to genetic differences, environmental factors will cause physical variations in the trees. Elevation, rain, and temperature all have an effect upon these trees. 
In general, the shapes of leaves from trees growing in hot, dry deserts are often small in order to conserve water loss through the leaf. Contrast this to the large-leafed plants of the tropics. Ohias occur in a wide range of habitats, from just above sea level to 8,200 feet: from dry forests with less than 16 in annual rainfall to wet forests with more than 33 feet of annual rainfall. This along with its genetic propensity for variation will produce trees of diverse appearance. The species name, polymorpha which actually means many forms has eight varieties. Thus tree height and form, leaf shape and flower color are highly variable.
Concerning the care, ohia trees can be damaged and even killed from a lack of water. During periods of drought especially, supplemental watering will be needed. Trees growing in the pahoehoe lava (exhibiting a smooth, billowy, ropy surface) may do well when young and water requirements are low. Nevertheless, as trees increase in size, if adequate water is not supplied, they can dry out and even die.  Mulch will help, but of course, not piled against the trunk.

Since ohias are adapted to grow in low nutrient soils, beware of over-fertilizing. Slow-release fertilizers or natural compost is best.