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Kava Botany The Death of the California Kava Plant

Discussion in 'In-Depth Kava Discussion' started by sɥɐʞɐs, Sep 19, 2019.

  1. sɥɐʞɐs

    sɥɐʞɐs ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ Review Maestro

    The experiment is temporarily over, all of my remaining kava plants have succumbed to what is hopefully my last lesson in figuring out how to keep kava alive in SoCal. Surprisingly, it was not the winter but rather the heat that took even my largest (still small), healthiest and hardiest plant. Summer heat waves would bring the greenhouse temperatures up to 108-111 degrees F, while the outside air was in the 80s-90s. While I was stuck at work, the plants were sweltering for hours in 100 degree heat. Even with installing a ventilation fan, keeping the door open, putting reflectix on the roof and adding an automated water mister, none of it was enough to reduce the heat. I would have been better off putting them in the shade outside...and that's what I'll do for the summers next time I try this.

    Spring 2018:
    awa-01.JPG awa-02.JPG

    Early Summer 2019:
    awa-03.jpg awa-04.jpg
    Midsummer 2019:

    @Alia When it first died back, it tried to sprout a little shoot, but that also dried up after about a week, was that the last attempt to come back that it will make? The original cutting on the (dead-ish) plants, where they meet the soil, are still green...could they still sprout again? Is there a way to encourage it to grow, like making a little cut on it with a blade? It's been like this for about a month or 2 two now.

    So anyway, the lesson is; summer is less manageable than winter for these plants. (In CA) Despite being tropical plants, high temperatures my be as much, if not more damaging than low temps. ::kavaleaf::
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
    Mesh, kastom_lif and Margaret like this.
  2. Kapmcrunk

    Kapmcrunk The Kaptain of Crunk KavaForums Founder

    100% respect to you for the work you've put into this project.
    sɥɐʞɐs likes this.
  3. Alia

    Alia 'Awa Grower/Collector

    I think you should keep the plant as long as there is any sign of green. Just keep checking the "where they meet the soil" area. If you haven't already done so I would suggest cutting off the dead portion. I doubt that cutting with a blade to stimulate growth will apply unless you mean cutting off all dead areas. That may help. That said, I think you are correct that the problems really begin and mount up when you have those high, hot temperatures. It has been unusually hot and dry here and the 'awa plants show it although not to the point of near death or death . However NEVER above 89 or 90 degrees F. It seems to me the only way to get through the hot summers for your plant experiment would be to have a temperature controlled, cooler, moist greenhouse and that, likely, it out of the question.
    F3TU5 and sɥɐʞɐs like this.
  4. sɥɐʞɐs

    sɥɐʞɐs ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ Review Maestro

    I cut off the dead thin stems a while back, but left the base of a couple stems, kinda like a crusty scab sticking off the original cutting.
    Recently I trimmed the protruding ‘scabs’ a little more and noticed there was actually living flesh inside them still.
    E899B7AF-5B67-4023-9431-8C84DED09577.jpeg 9A033080-38BB-4005-8561-E290542E310D.jpeg
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
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  5. avahZ

    avahZ YAHWEH Shalom

  6. kastom_lif

    kastom_lif Kava Enthusiast

    This makes me wonder about ʻawa in Hawaii. Could plants get too hot, especially with climate change? Might be more of an issue on the leeward side where, although you might be able to irrigate plants, the air itself could get too hot/dry.

    On the other hand, growing mauka on the windward side might be just the trick to beat climate change. Catch natural rain, stay cooler, maybe even some curious effects from higher altitude? It works for Kaʻū coffee!

    P.S. Isn't Matt's mom growing some up in Volcano? Wonder how those plants are doing? That's even higher than the edge of the forest in Kaʻū, plus probably a safer longterm bet, vog-wise.
    kasa_balavu likes this.
  7. Alia

    Alia 'Awa Grower/Collector

    That has been something on my mind also, as you write-- with climate change could it get harder to grow 'awa in the regions it has grown for centuries.
    With more overstory, nitrogen fixing plants and added irrigation it will likely be OK. Higher elevation good also. Glad I am closer to being on my way out of this world.
    Krunʞy and kasa_balavu like this.
  8. kasa_balavu

    kasa_balavu Yaqona Dina

    Do you have Gliricidia Sepium in Hawaii? Have you seen it used as a shade plant for kava?

  9. Alia

    Alia 'Awa Grower/Collector

    Oh yes, the Gliricidia sepium is great, we have it and Pigeon Pea is ok and "SunHemp" Crotalaria juncea is good pre-plant/plow-in.
    kastom_lif and kasa_balavu like this.
  10. Plantacious

    Plantacious Kava Enthusiast

    Someone told me that had good success with growing kava in CA, by using the same methods and technology as canabis
  11. kastom_lif

    kastom_lif Kava Enthusiast

    You might have some success bringing back sandalwood by using pigeon peas as a host plant. Young sandalwood trees are hemiparasitic, meaning they will tap into a host tree for nutrition and water. Pigeon peas seem to be popular in Vanuatu because they’ll tolerate growing on the dry side of islands, they’re a good size for young sandalwood, and they fix nitrogen.
  12. sɥɐʞɐs

    sɥɐʞɐs ‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾‾ Review Maestro

    The last plant that I had snipped back down to it's original cutting a few months ago finally died completely, it was never able to re-grow any new leaves. None of my plants have ever been able to re-grow new leaves, once all the leaves that they did have died, so I wasn't really expecting this one to grow back. I kept it around just in case and also as an experiment. I wanted to see how long the stem would stay alive with no protection from the winter temps...I could tell the when the stem was alive cuz it maintained a green color. It held up surprisingly well, for a while, especially considering it didn't even have any leaves for it to help generate energy but once we started getting into the low 40's(°F) for several nights and weeks in a row I could see the remaining life drain out of it.

    It finally died so I pulled it up, cleaned it off, and ate it.
    Even at this young stage, it tasted like fresh kava, numbed my mouth and produced a little bit of a buzz.
    Last edited: Jan 9, 2020
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  13. kasa_balavu

    kasa_balavu Yaqona Dina

    I'm sorry but that had me LMFAO. Such an unexpected turn. Like you were caring for your baby for so long, nurturing it and holding out hope it would make it... and then you just ate it! :ROFLMAO:

    Seriously though, I'm sorry you lost it. I've been trying to grow some in my yard here in the hot western side of Fiji and it's been quite a challenge. You did really well to keep it going so long.
    avahZ, sɥɐʞɐs, Alia and 1 other person like this.
  14. Zaphod

    Zaphod Kava Enthusiast

    Well at least you gave it a proper burial. All kava should end up in belly somewhere.