Every now and then, you have to give a tree a haircut. Not a pruning, mind you, a real haircut. And why? Let’s just say that we have trees here, old
trees, that we didn’t have names for but, as it turns out, they are mandarina, tangerines to us folks from the North.
So, why the haircut? Well, we have some nasty vines here in Costa Rica. not strangler fig, other things, that root in the mossy branches of trees and take over from there. If
you catch them early enough, you can pull them out by hand or use clippers on them. We didn’t catch them early enough.
So there we were this morning (and into the afternoon) giving the mandarina a haircut and, as you can see, it was pretty drastic.
While we were at it, we decided to give the tree a shave as well, removing the moss and other growth from its branches. “Other growth” included small vines, bromeliads, and orchids. This is about the only time you can remove an orchid from a living tree because removing the moss and the roots of other plants disturbs the orchids to the point that they need to be transplanted. Plus all those branches that had to be cut are a good place for orchid hunting.
But, back to the haircut. Be careful! We found ant nests in both the upper branches of the tree and in the branching area of the bole. I don’t know if these were stinging ants or the biting ants, I just know that once was enough. The darn things (or maybe another species) also creep around under the moss on the branches, another reason to be careful.
Then there is the moss itself which is slippery in the rainy season. I suggest shoes with a nice solid grip, textured gloves, and a constant 3-point stance. A ladder is very helpful, but make sure it is on level ground (if you can find level ground, let me know. At one point, the ladder slipped, leaving my gardener dangling from a branch).
The best tool for a haircut seems to be a really sharp machete as mandarina wood is quite dense. Armondo made it look very easy, but it wasn’t. Or maybe it was just his 20-year-old muscles, compared to my (mumble, mumble) year old muscles. It’s possible. I do know that clippers and even branch loppers didn’t do much damage when I wielded them.
So get out there and look for things that don’t belong in your trees. Oh, there is one more tip – from Metric Man. Don’t let your (mumble, mumble) year old wife climb trees. (Oh my aching back!)