Thursday, April 14, 2011

Time For A Haircut

'Tis the season for the first of our biannual (twice a year) pruning and maintenance of the trees here at Kona Kai.  The Gardens were considerately abuzz with activity over the past couple days as our trusty Florida Keys Tree Services crew consisting of Bernie, P.J. and Stevie was been brought in to clear out dying/dangerous limbs, coconuts, old palm fronds and tree stumps, with much help from Veronika as well.

It is important for us to keep on top of pruning for a number of reasons, and some of these reasons apply more to sub-tropical / tropical environments than temperate ones.  For example, as palm fronds die on certain palms, such as fan palms (Washingtonia spp.), fronds hold on to the tree and form a sort of skirt around the top of tree below the living fronds.  As fronds are cut from palms, the bases of many need to be left because they are still mostly attached to the trunk.  Over time, these frond bases loosen and can be pulled off.  If regular maintenance is not done to remove dead fronds and their bases, these areas can become nesting areas for insects as well as small animals such as squirrels and rats, which is not very desirable, especially at a resort.  In the picture on the left, you can see the nifty apparatus (actually made by Niftylift in England) Bernie and his crew use to get up into the tree canopies.  It is quite an amazing machine that can even navigate tight sidewalks, a big advantage over bucket trucks.  The photo on the right shows P.J. attaching a rope around a heavy coconut bunch so that when cut, it doesn't crash to the ground, destroy plants and cause general flying-coconut mayhem.

Hurricanes are another reason for regular pruning.  If we don’t remove as many of the coconuts, weak trees, weak limbs and dead palm fronds as possible, they can become dangerous debris during a hurricane.  You can imagine the damage a five-pound coconuts would cause at over 100 mph.  Even without wind, coconuts will fall, and the last thing we want is for one of our guests to be the first to test out how well an iPad holds up after it is introduced to a coconut falling from a 30-foot tree.  It is also good to prune back tall trees or trees with limbs overhanging our buildings, as these branches also become potentially very dangerous to structures during hurricanes.

As you can see in the pictures below, we have taken out the rest of the Schefflera completely because it was weak, rotting and would likely have fallen soon (see pics from previous entry).  Bernie brought in a stump grinder so that we could remove the stump, fill in the area and decide what we want to plant there in the future.  Stump grinders are pretty powerful and helpful machines; they make quick work of a stump that would take much longer to rot away or remove by hand and allows for immediate re-planting of an area.  A potentially amazing alternative use for this machine would be as a giant margarita blender; I'll look into it.

While they were here, we also had the crew cut down what remained of the Altocarpus altilis (breadfruit tree) in our fruit garden, which died back nearly to the ground in a cold snap last year.  Although shoots were coming out of the stump, we agreed it would be best to take it out and leave a few shoots that had come up from the roots a few feet away from the trunk.  As you can see from the picture on the right, the stump had a low "V" crotch and was rotting away at the top.  Later on, we will select one of the nearby shoots to hopefully grow into a strong tree.

We make the best efforts to keep the grounds as pristine as possible throughout the pruning/trimming process, and at the end of two days of trimming, there is almost no trace of the work, which was incredible for me to witness because of the amount of plants that we worked on.  Much credit goes to Veronika, the tree service crew and the rest of our dedicated staff who helped make this Spring's trimming a great success.

Rick Hederstrom
Associate Director

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