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

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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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Friday - March 03, 2006

From: Fellsmere, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Care for non-native, invasive Bauhinia variegata
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Fellsmere just south of Melbourne and we have about 5 orchid trees on our property; one is fairly tall, about 20 ft, and the others are about 6 ft tall. My smaller ones have several air plants and moss on the branches and the taller one looks to be growing mostly on one side and doesn't have very good color in it's leaves. I don't know when or how much I can cut back the small guys and my larger one looks like it needs some sort of fertilizer. Any suggestions?

ANSWER:

First, I am not sure whether you have Anacacho orchid tree (Bauhinia lunarioides), native to Texas and Louisiana, or one of the other species of Bauhinia, such as Purple orchid-tree (Bauhinia purpurea) or (Bauhinia variegata), native to Asia. Whichever tree you have, it can take pruning, even hard pruning. Concerning the tree with with poor foliage color, the article on B. purpurea says that it has a "tendency to show nutritional deficiencies, especially potassium" and another article on Bauhinia spp. in general, suggests that the pH of the soil should be below 7.5 for members of the genus to thrive. You might consider having your soil pH and nutrient levels tested through your county Florida Cooperative Extension service office. You might also consider contacting an arborist.

Please note that Bauhinia variegata is listed as a Category 1 invasive species on the Florida Exotic Pest Plant Council's 2005 list of Invasive Species.
 

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