Discovering the Bahama Berry as a new bonsai species was quite exciting for me. It seemed perfect. The tiny leaves, flowers and fruit were exactly what we look for!
Dr. Popenoe, a former director of Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden was the first to recognize Nashia as a potential bonsai subject. He pointed it out to me during a Fairchild plant distribution day back in the 1980s. He was right . . . woody trunk, small leaves, tiny flowers and fruit, fast growing and fragrant too!
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 one of these plants, this may be its great-grandmother.
The tiny flowers attract many pollinators, especially the Atala butterfly, so it has become a desirable addition to tropical gardens.
When brushed or touched the leaves (approximately 1/4 " in length) exude a delightful, spicy aroma. A full-grown Nashia, with ideal growing conditions, reaches about 7- 8 feet in height.
Fully matured in the ground, the trunk develops to two to three inches in diameter. In its natural habitat, the shrub is rangy, and not particularly attractive.
At first glance this doesn't appear to be a prospective bonsai subject. It may take a closer look at the textured trunk, the tiny leaves and of course, the wonderful fragrance, to convince you of its 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. The flowers 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.
Care of this plant can be a little tricky. In addition, sometimes it can have a very bad and peculiar pest! Read more about Bahama Berry Care.
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Know the basics? Ready for more? Watch these amazing Colin Lewis bonsai class videos.
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