[permaculture] Transplanting coconut palms

John Thomas Naisbitt johntnaisbitt at gmail.com
Wed Oct 28 10:44:16 EDT 2009


We have a small farm in Panama on the Caribbean side near the town of Bocas
Del Toro. Or place is located about an hour by boat from town so our
primary, and only, labor force is that of the local somewhat misplaced
Teribe Indians. Over the past six years I have been in the process of
planting coconuts throughout the first 100m zone along the waterfront with a
scatter of coconut palms; roughly 2500 trees to date. (No it does not sound
like a drum festival when the wind blows, yet, as most are just beginning to
come into fruiting stage.)

I have tried to transplant trees which have been planted out of pattern or
have volunteered themselves on a couple of occasions. My ever so friendly
helpers advised me on a few accounts that this could not be done once the
trees have produced the third full frond. I knew that transplanting has been
performed in the landscape business for years so in my ignorance, I moved a
variety of trees without much thought or consideration to some major natural
influences which greatly affect the trees health and growth pattern. My
trees, if survived, represented a variety of patterns in the form of
enlarged crowns, stunted growth, fatal yellowing (otherwise known as
"Bummer" by my son) and delayed to non existent root development.

My employees have always been forest gardeners and harvesters, this trait is
in their lineage and thankfully their skills and knowledge to date reflect
those of their ancestry. Through some coming to terms with my methods by
being cornered by elder members of the community, I have learned a highly
valuable lesson when it comes to sustenance farming and coconuts. The
simplicity of it is due to the fact that coconuts are tropical with some
subtropical varieties. In the tropics, a major influential element which
impacts many activities is the lunar positioning and magnetism.

I have become better at planting my trees now and am trying some tricks
which a little old man on the other side of the island told me about some
years ago. If I want shorter higher producing trees, I plant on the waning
moon in the early stages. the results I have seen so far have been positive.
(We actually hit a good one a few years ago and I now have stunted trees
with large coconuts at shoulder to head height.) If we want taller trees, we
plant on the waxing moon in its early stages. Now, you may be asking "what
about transplanting?". In order to avoid having my trees becoming "big
headed", I now transplant three days prior to the full moon. This allows for
the plant to rest for three days and get ready for what is about to
come....... as the moon begins to wane, the juices of the tree are pulled
into the subterranean realm of the tree allowing for greater root growth and
stabilization of the woody cells in the upper tree. Following the new moon,
the juices of life are slowly and normally transferred back into the upper
foliage of the tree allowing for the tree to continue normal growth. This is
the only way I have had any success in transplanting the coconut palms.
Granted there are other influences which totally screw this process up such
as butchered roots, anaerobic soils, and ,in my case, burrowing crabs
(sometimes I miss the gophers of my old home in Montana....).

Good luck and please, to all, listen to the elders in your community. They
may be a pain in the a@# at times, but they do know a few things.

Taking care,


On Wed, Oct 28, 2009 at 2:36 AM, Juergen Botz <jurgen at botz.org> wrote:

> Anyone here has experience with transplanting mature coconut
> palms?
> I have transplanted a few dwarfs and although they survived
> and grew, my problem is that immediately after transplanting
> they produced too much growth in the crown causing the new
> part of the trunk to become drastically thinner.  Once a palm
> trunk thins that part will never grow thicker, so you end up
> with a palm that is forever limited by the constricted section
> of its trunk.
> The key should be to slow crown growth and stimulate root
> growth at the time of transplanting, but I've found no
> information on how to achieve that.  I'm going to experiment,
> but I'd love some input from anyone who has experience
> with coconuts or other palms in this respect first.  Wild
> speculation is also welcome!
> :j
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