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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - February 18, 2009

From: Kihei, HI
Region: Hawaii
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Plants not native to North America in Hawaii
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Do not know if you have any experience for Hawaii but here it goes. I live on Maui and have some coco palms, a line of 12, two of them right next to each other (15-20 ft). They are a decent shade of yellow, also the edges are kinda browned out on some leaves, I have just fertilized them with 15-15-15 pelletized fertilizer all around the water basin for them; just wondering if you think this will help or should I do something else.

ANSWER:

Our expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown. In your case, we would be recommending plants native to Hawaii, which are probably not going to appear in our Native Plant Database. We also understand that there is a large problem with non-native invasives destroying the natural ecology of Hawaii. About the best we can do is search for some websites which might answer questions that we cannot, and hope that helps you.

As near as we can tell, what you refer to as "coco palm" is Cocos nucifera, coconut palm.  It has been imported and naturalized in very southern portions of Florida and Texas, and needs to be in an area where moisture is readily available. Two sites you might want to read are both from Floridata: Cocos nucifera and A History of the Coconut. As we suspected, this does not appear in our Native Plant Database and we have no experience with it. If we correctly understood, the  Floridata websites say there is a disease of the coconut palm called Lethal Yellowing which is, apparently, well, lethal. 

Ordinarily, in a situation like this we would refer you to a County Extension Agent, which is usually a service of the state Agricultural College. We did find a University of Hawaii Agriculture campus, but they appeared to have no extension services. Possibly a reputable plant nursery that sells these plants could make suggestions or a diagnosis. Wish we could have been more help.

 

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