Lipstick Tree : The Tree at UVM

 The Lipstick tree in the greenhouse is a beautiful example of Bixa orellana. The bench beside the tree is the perfect spot to admire it, whether it’s flowering or fruiting. One can sit here to do homework, take refuge from the cold, or simply bask in the ambiance of a stunning tropical tree.

The tree Bixa orellana at UVM resides in the first room of the greenhouse. It is suspected to be about thirty years old and stands about ten feet tall. The tree is a beautiful one, taking center stage in the room. When I visited the tree in mid-March it was fruiting but not flowering. I was told that it tends to go back and forth between flowering and fruiting throughout the year. This tree also had galls, which were small bumps all over the bark of the tree. These are places of irregular growth and may be the result of the trees constant pruning, branch trimming, or unique environment.

            The tree is well taken care of. It is watered every day and twice a day in the summer. Soluble fertilizer is used on the tree twice a week and it is pruned four times a year. The tree is pruned to keep it from growing into the ceiling and to maintain good air circulation around the tree.

            Two bugs cause problems for this unique specimen in the greenhouse. The bug Soft Brown Scale appears to be a little brown disk, but is actually a sucking insect. This bug uses its mouth-parts to suck at the vascular system of the tree and consume the trees sugars that it has produced. This lack of nutrients causes a weakening of the tree. Another sucking bug called an Aphid uses a similar method to attack the tree. Those that work in the greenhouse have a unique way of combatting this. They release aphid-eating wasps to take care of the aphids so that they can protect the tree while reducing their pesticide use.