In its full-grown form, the Bahama Berry tree is nondescript and unattractive. When kept as a bonsai tree, however, the slim, twisty nature of the trunk makes for a graceful and pleasant smelling bonsai tree. The Bahama Berry is also known as Nashia inaguensis, Moujean Tea, Pineapple Verbena, and “I Dry, I Die”. It is native to the Bahamas Island named Inagua, is a member of the Vervain family, and is a relative of the lantana. This bonsai can be high-maintenance when it comes to care but the pleasing appearance and aroma of the tree make up for the unstable nature of the plant.
|Scientific/Botanical Name||Nashia inaguensis|
|Description||This shrub displays a lanky habit, with trunks that are approximately four inches in circumference at maturity. Glossy green leaves and clusters of small white flowers define the plant. Blooms are followed by burnt-orange berries.|
|Position||The shrub requires hot conditions, and a site with all-day sunlight is ideal. It is tolerant of high humidity. A heat mat in the winter is advisable if the plant is grown indoors.|
|Watering||The shrub requires consistent moisture because dry conditions are fatal to the plant.|
|Feeding||Feed with a well-balanced fertilizer once a week during the spring and summer months. Thereafter, feeding should follow a monthly schedule over the winter months.|
|Leaf and Branch Pruning||Frequent clipping and trimming will promote the best shape.|
|Re-potting & Growing Medium||The shrub should only be re-potted in the early part of summer, never later. Enriched soil that retains moisture is the best growing medium.|
|Wiring||Bahama Berry is a rather brittle shrub, but it can be wired as needed.|
|Notes||The shrub is indigenous to the Bahaman island of Inagua, and its leaves have an aromatic and herb-like fragrance.|
Some bonsai gardeners refer to the Bahama Berry bonsai as “I Dry, I Die” because of its delicate nature. Should this tree show even the slightest sign of dehydration or wilting, it should be doused in water immediately. Any delay can hasten the death of the plant and few Bahama Berries recover from drying out. Watering them requires a fine balance, however, as these bonsai trees can react negatively to over-watering. The Bahama Berry is, as its name indicates, a true tropical plant, so it must have abundant sunshine and air circulation in order to flourish. Bonsai gardeners must work hard to reach the balance between tropical water and humidity with the dryness created by air circulation and heat.
Drainage is important for maintaining a healthy Bahama Berry bonsai tree, especially given how sensitive the bonsai tree is to moisture deficiencies. No plant flourishes when water is allowed to stagnate, but the Bahama Bonsai will wither and die if the soil used is prone to dryness. During the spring through fall, a general soluble fertilizer will need to be applied once a week; after fall, fertilizer solution once a month should be sufficient. Gardeners should consider buying a deeper pot than normal in which to plant it because of the tree’s growth rate and watering needs.
Pruning is as vital for a healthy and shapely Bahama Berry tree as it is for any other bonsai tree. Root pruning should be done sometime between mid-April and mid-August by employing a small saw or kitchen knife on the roots. This particular tree has thick, tangled roots, so gardeners are encouraged to slice the roots off rather than to attempt to comb them out as they might do with other types of bonsai tree. Given the hard nature of the wood, bonsai gardeners might want to try carefully breaking a branch they want to trim and gently tearing it away rather than trying to cut or snip. Wiring can also be used to shape the branches of the otherwise straight-limbed Bahama Berry bonsai tree.
The Bahama Berry bonsai tree can be susceptible to several pests if not kept well. Mealy bugs may be drawn to a Bahama Berry that is kept in a low-lighted area that gets poor circulation. Sucking insects called pit scales may also plague a gardener, although these pests are rarer than mealy bugs. In order to prevent and eliminate pest infestations, gardeners should routinely check on and under the leaves of their bonsai and should spray the tree with pyrethrin-based insecticide sprays to eliminate pests and parasites.
The Pleasant Aroma Of The Bahama Berry
While some would consider the “I Dry, I Die” nature of the Bahama Berry bonsai tree to be too much trouble, those who do raise these trees value them for the pleasant dual aroma these trees exude. The leaves have a spicy aroma when rubbed, and the small, white flowers give off a strong, sweet smell. Insects find the nectar from these flowers to be enjoyable; many insects including the Atala butterfly are attracted to the flowers of the Bahama Berry tree, and gardeners enjoy the scents in miniature in their own little trees. Gardeners also enjoy looking at the tiny reddish-orange fruits that grow on the tree. Some gardeners save their clippings from this tree because the leaves can be used to make a citrus-like herbal tea.
The properties and attributes of the Bahama Berry bonsai tree make it ideal for shohin, the small bonsai tree style. The tallness of the trunk also lends itself to the literati style, but the stiffness of the trunk makes cultivating these Bahama Berry bonsai trees in the windswept and cascade styles. While not a particularly good indoor plant, this bonsai tree must be stored inside during cold winters. Gardeners who bring their bonsai trees indoors should make sure that their Bahama Berries receive ample light, humidity, and water in order to encourage leaf growth rather than leggy root growth.
The Bahama Berry bonsai tree is a difficult type of bonsai tree to maintain due to its susceptibility to dryness, yet gardeners who have this sort of bonsai tree value it for its beauty and for its aroma. Gardeners of this particular tree should make sure to prune and drain their plants properly, making sure to prune the roots so that they will not grow too long. They should also beware of the danger presented by pests and parasites as mealy bugs and pit scales can damage it to the point where brittle branches will break off if touched. This bonsai tree is especially admired for the combined scent of its leaves and flowers which join to form a mixed aroma of citrus and vanilla. Gardeners also value this type of bonsai tree for its solid trunk that gives the tree a strong appearance. If a gardener can get past falling into the trap of “I Dry, I Die,” then he or she will have a healthy and beautiful Bahama Berry bonsai tree that will provide enjoyment for years to come.