Discovering the Bahama Berry as a new plant for use as a bonsai tree was quite exciting. To me, this plant was especially so, as it seemed perfect.
The tiny leaves, flowers and fruit and textured bark were exactly what we look for.
Dr. Popenoe, a former director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, Coral Gables, FL was the first to recognize Nashia inaguensis as a potential bonsai tree subject.
He pointed a small plant out to me during a Fairchild plant distribution day back in the 1980s.
He was right ... not only woody trunk, small leaves, tiny flowers and fruit, but fast growing and fragrant too! I purchased several to experiment with.
It wasn't long before we propagated and shared this little bonsai treasure!
Relative of: Lantana
Scientific Name: Nashia inaguensis
Native to: The island of Inagua in the Bahamas
Common Names: Bahama Berry, 'I Dry, I Die', Moujean Tea, and Pineapple Verbena
The Nashia bonsai shown here is one of the first created, using this plant.
It stands 20 inches tall, from the top of the soil.
If you own a Bahama Berry, this may be its great-grandmother.
When brushed or touched the leaves (approximately 1/4 " in length) exude a delightful, spicy, herbal aroma.
The secondary branches appear in whorls and shoot out long and straight. These are a little bit of a challenge when styling.
A fully grown Nashia, with ideal growing conditions, reaches about 7-8 feet in height. Matured in the ground, the trunk only develops to two to three inches in diameter.
In its natural habitat the shrub is rangy, and not particularly attractive.
Shown here, growing in Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden, the Nashia doesn't appear to be much of a prospective bonsai subject.
The tiny flowers attract many pollinators, especially the Atala butterfly, so it has become a desirable addition to tropical gardens.
Because of its natural appearance, it may take a little convincing and definitely a closer look to see the bonsai potential.
During a particularly heavy blooming of one of my Nashia bonsai, I noticed a stronger, sweeter smell. It was the clusters of tiny flowers. The flowers are even smaller than the leaves, white and very close set in groups on the branch. Two scents - leaves and flowers - on one bonsai tree, what a prize.
The fruit is smaller still. They develop into tiny orange to reddish-orange bead-like clusters.
Tom Martin grows his 'BaBe' in Utica, NY
The small size of leaves, fruit and flowers make Nashia a perfect subject for miniature bonsai.
In the tropics, they are easy to grow and it wasn't long before we developed a number of nice plants. One of our wholesalers in New York - Rhys O'Brien - suggested the existing common names were a bit difficult. He claimed one of his customers called it nausea instead of Nashia!
Then Moujean Tea (the name used in the Bahamas) was confused with Fukien Tea (they're not related).
Rhys and I spent some time with humorous bantering over nomenclature, and we came up with 'Bahama Berry'. I began selling it under that name and it continues in common use today.
Because some people had care difficulties, the late Barry Lowenthal thought it should be named "I Dry, I Die". Lots of folks still agree.
The Nashia inaguensis is a bit tricky to care for. Also, this plant is prone to a very peculiar pest! Be sure to read its Care information page.
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