Bahama Berry Bonsai Care Guide
Nashia inaguensis is a native of the island of Inagua in the Bahamas. Also known by other names – Pineapple Verbena, Moujean Tea, and "I Dry, I Die" – it is a member of the Vervain family and is related to lantana.
This tropical was first suggested as a bonsai subject by Dr. Popenoe, former director of the Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables, Florida.
In nature this unassuming, rambling plant may reach 7-8 feet in height with only a 3-4 inch trunk, and doesn't appear at first glance to be an obvious bonsai candidate. Surprisingly, however, it has turned out to be fairly popular.
Bahama Berry has tiny, shiny green leaves with close internodes, and a twiggy branch structure that develops clusters of small white flowers giving way to red-orange berries.
This bonsai is known and loved for its aromatic nature – the leaves exude a spicy, herbal scent while the flowers are sweet smelling.
The trunk takes on an aged look in a short amount of time, and should be encouraged to develop girth before worrying too much about training the rest of the tree.
Nashia inaguensis loves to be warm, although it can tolerate most conditions as long as it is protected in temperatures below 45° F. Even so, if you live in a temperate climate it is best to bring this bonsai in at night. If kept inside it must have access to plenty of sunlight and finds a warming mat to be a welcome luxury.
If kept outside, the Bahama Berry will grow well, just be sure to keep it well-maintained so that leggy growth (etiolation) does not develop. Once that happens it will lose its bonsai-friendly foliage density.
It's apparent by the nickname "I dry, I die" that this plant enjoys consistent moistness. While many tropical bonsai tolerate being brought to the edge of death by wilt, Bahama Berry is not so flexible. If even the slightest evidence of wilt becomes visible the tree should be drenched immediately. On the other hand, this plant should not be kept soaked either.
Well-draining soil is imperative for proper Bahama Berry Bonsai care, and warm water should be used for watering (not too hot, though).
Nashia thrives in well-circulating air, which also means it can dry out even more easily. A humidity tray can be a perfect solution to this challenge. Misting regularly is also a good way to circumvent dryness.
Use a balanced feed like 20-20-20 weekly throughout most of the year, reducing frequency to monthly in winter. The pH level should be kept around 7.0.
Styles - the size of this bonsai along with its tiny flowers and fruit make it perfect for shohin.
Taller specimens lend themselves quite attractively to literati. Styles like cascade will be difficult to attain due to the branch structure.
Bahama Berry should be trained by clip and grow; frequent trimming is required because the branches are fast-growing which creates lengthy internodes. Frequently trimming tender new shoots also encourages ramification. The bark of this tree is naturally flaky and roots will grow from it even at the top. If desired, the flakiness can be removed with a stiff brush in order to show off the smooth yellowish surface underneath.
This tree can be wired but it is generally not recommended due to the brittle nature of the branches. If wiring, bend carefully and gradually and watch closely for cutting in of the wire.
Bahama Berry may be propagated by cuttings or layering; in order for either method to succeed the nighttime temperature should be above 70° F.
Unlike many bonsai plants, Nashia should be repotted in early summer. This species has an extraordinarily fast-growing root system, and pruning them too early, too late, or during winter can kill the plant. Nighttime temperatures should be at least in the lower 60s F for repotting. The roots may be sawn with a knife (do not try to comb out).
This bonsai is known for needing frequent repotting. The most important thing is not to wait too long because it does not tolerate being root-bound. Once repotted, water thoroughly and keep the plant in the shade for a week. Refrain from fertilizing for three or four weeks.
Insects/Pests & Diseases
Scale and mealy bugs may attack the Bahama Berry, particularly if air circulation is poor. Scale should be removed manually or by applying rubbing alcohol to their waxy outer shells. If you prefer to use insecticide for scale, it should be applied early in the year before the nymphs develop their protective shell.
Mealy bugs tend to affect this bonsai underneath the bark and can be removed manually with tweezers.
As with all bonsai, you should examine your plant regularly for any sign of pests or fungal problems. Good air circulation discourage both bugs and fungus. A non-toxic insecticide applied every month or two will help keep your tree healthy and beautiful.