Coconut Trees: Who Knew?

Did you ever wonder why some coconut palms look like this?

And others like this?

Well…despite the fact that the trees are a major part of the landscape on Ambergris Caye, they probably aren’t native.  And they are surprisingly susceptible to disease.  A menacing illness called “Lethal Yellowing” has killed many of the coconut trees across the Caribbean and has been present in Belize for about 20 years.  The bacteria spreads from tree to tree by tiny bugs and once your tree gets it…its life span is short.  Very short.

First sign that your poor tree is infected:  all the nuts (big and small) fall off the tree almost at once.  Next, the fronds yellow, brown and then die.  Just a few months later, your tree is dead.   Sad.  Nice to make a tree stump dragon but pretty ugly otherwise.

So…how does a resort like Victoria House keep all of its 156 coconut trees healthy and green?  Medicine.  Tetracycline should be injected into the trees every 3 months to ward off this deadly bacteria.  Interesting to me.  I thought I’d tag along with someone on the island, a tree doctor let’s say, to see how this process works.

A hole is drilled in the base of the tree and a small metal cylinder filled with rubber is inserted.

Don’t worry about that black sappy stain.  It can be washed off with soap and water.

Next comes the HUGE veterinary needle.  Let’s all hope this syringe is only used for elephants and maybe rhinos.

The cylinder needs to be adjusted with each injection.

So why plant coconut palms at all?  And not some other kind of palm tree?  Well…the nuts, for one.  Everyone loves the meat, the water, the milk.  They are a staple of the Belizean diet.  They also grow fast and they grow TALL.  And…well…they are very pretty.

So bottom line:  your coconut tree needs medication to stay healthy.  Strange but true.  It seems to cost between $15 and $20bzd per tree depending on the number of trees that you have.   And it is something I never even thought of…

And if you are starting from scratch…you might want to consider some more hearty varieties…

Or maybe this…

For more information, call Al at the number to the right (the Bug Off ad).  And before you suggest it, NO, I have not become a slave to my advertisers, this is actually interesting to me.  And Al hasn’t even paid me yet.

As always…if you have a blog suggestion or any questions at all, just send me an email.