Tropical Gardening: Here we go again with another hurricane season

  • Courtesy of VOLTAIRE MOISE When pruning, note that this severe “Hat racking” method is detrimental to the health of many tree species. Consider the natural growth of the tree and attempt to remove dead and weak branching without destroying the normal growth habit.

Hurricane season is officially here and the tropical Pacific has already had Typhoon Amphan tearing up the Philippines in May.

We have been very fortunate in Hawaii to have been free of storms so far this year, but not so in the southern United States. Floods and tornadoes devastated large areas.


What we have learned from storms such as hurricanes Harvey and Irma is that the major damage done from actual winds was to trees such as lychee, macadamia mahogany and other broadleaf trees.

On the other hand, palms such as coconut, royal, cabbage palms, Mexican fan palms, pritchardias and scores of others survived the storm winds. Many will tolerate flooding with little damage as well. If the soil was so soggy that the palms tipped over, they were easy to replant and recover.

Since there are thousands of species, the question is which palms can be used to create your tropical landscape with a minimum of storm damage and care? The Hawaii Island Palm Society is available to help folks answer that question, so check out the group’s website.

When it comes to trees other than palms, remember they are important elements of parks, streets and home gardens. Do not forget that they supply oxygen, sequester carbon and, in general, help minimize the negative effects of global climate change. However, they do require proper maintenance to ensure they make it through stormy weather.

It is always important to inspect your trees for dead branches that seem to be ready to fall. A gust of wind can snap an arm-size branch and send it at missile speed through a picture window. A low hanging branch over a roof can wreak havoc. Powerful winds can turn the limb into a tool of destruction.

Fan-like fungus growing on the side of a tree trunk indicates rotten spots that need attention. A hole made by poor pruning, damage from earlier storms, or the gouge of an auto bumper can start rotten spots.

Remove decayed trees too weak to hold up under the strain of a storm. This action will save you grief later.

And removing dead and out-of-place limbs is a good idea even if there is no storm.

As soon as the storm passes, it is a good idea to inspect the trees and other plants around the house. Usually all the plants will show signs of wind damage.

With a little trimming, propping, resettling of root systems, fertilizing and watering, nearly all plants that were shaken loose from the ground can be salvaged.

After hurricane season, it is a good idea to consider root pruning as a way to manage those larger trees. If in doubt about what to do, you can contact a local certified arborist to assess the situation and correct it.

Many of our tropical trees grow rampant with extensive root systems. That is why we prune to keep them from getting out of hand, but let’s prune the right way.

Late spring and summer are not the best times for heavy pruning since shade is at a premium during those hot days ahead. Fall is a good time, as the days are getting shorter and the sun’s rays less intense.

Remember: trees are vital to making urban life healthier for us physically, mentally and even spiritually. Forest fires, storms and drought are destroying our forests on a global scale. Every time we plant a tree, we help minimize the effects of global warming.

Enjoy those beautiful trees in your garden by maintaining them correctly. On a grander scale, work with the county and state governments to plant more trees in parks, roads and highways.


Without trees, this would just be another barren desert island.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the University of Hawaii Master Gardeners might not be available, but as soon as we get back to some sense of normal, contact the UH Master Gardener Helpline for assistance in Kona at 322-4892 or 981-5199 in Hilo.

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