Arborhea?

Robert F. Enenkel enenkel at cs.toronto.edu
Fri Apr 8 12:45:47 EST 1994


Perhaps some of you could help me with a tree I have inside my house.
I purchased it from a commercial greenhouse, and they told me it is
an "Arborhea", and that it grows in the swamps in Florida.  It is 12
feet tall, and has a single ringed stem about 6 inches in diameter, 
the top 4 feet of which were covered with leaves.  It looks somewhat
like a Dracaena or a Yucca, but with no serrations on the leaves.

I installed fluorescent lights for it, so that it gets from 300-500 Lux
for 14 hours a day.  The pot is about 14 inches in diamater, and the
soil looked very spongy and damp.  All the leaves had 1-2 inch brown
tips, which I cut off.  After a couple of weeks without watering, the
top of the soil looked like it was starting to dry out, and since I
had been told it was a swamp plant, I thought I ought to water it.  I
watered until water came out of the drainage holes at the bottom of the
pot, and then removed the excess in the saucer.  The soil was extermely
absorbant and consumed a tremendous amount of water (about 10 liters).
Again, I was not concerned, as this was supposed to be a swamp plant.
In the next couple of days, the leaves started getting brown tips again, 
some severely.  After a week or so, many of the lower leaves browned right 
back to the base, and I had to remove them.  All told,  about half the 
leaves were lost, all of them lower leaves.  The top half of the foliage 
was fine.  After that terrible experience (the plant was very expensive!)
I didn't water it for almost 2 months.  The soil became very dry, and began
cracking and pulling away from the edge of the pot.  I was waiting for the
tree to wilt before watering it again.  It wouldn't wilt!  What kind of
swamp plant is this?  Finally, after 2 months I thought I detected a slight
drooping of the leaves (probably my imagination), but when I tried squeezing
the stem with my thumbs I found that I could press it considerably, as 
though it were hollow.  It seemed as though it had been storing water in
its stem.  This is starting to look more and more like a desert plant,
not a swamp one!  Anyhow, I watered it once, heavily, and the next few days all
the leaves got brown tips.  I let it dry out again for 6 weeks, and now I
water it once a month, but only a little.  I'm really at a loss what to
do with this one.  

Any advice?  Is it a swamp tree or a desert one?  Were the greenhouse
people totally wrong and gave it the wrong soil altogether - peat instead
of sand?  Please help.

Robert Enenkel
(Bewildered indoor tree grower)



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