Visiting David Chandlee in Nth Qld

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Sheryl  Bob and I were visiting Nth Qld in August last year and we called in to see David who’s very hard to find! I took with me a list of questions that various members wanted information on so below is the result of our visit.

Sheryl:  What do you think would grow well down in SE Qld as far as the tropical fruit?
David:   I don’t get feedback from my customers but Robert Pulverenti grows a lot of Artocarpus. They grow very well but I don’t think they fruit all that well.
David:   Black Sapote – There’s male, female and bisexual trees which are functionally male but the ones I’ve seen don’t produce many fruit and they aren’t very good quality. The male flower is torpedo shape so it’s narrow at the two ends and wider in the middle and the diameter of the unopened flower is about 7mm. The female flower has an embryo and is 10-12mm across and if you dissect the flower, even if you can’t visually see the embryo, when you cut it in half you’ll seethe embryo at the bottom. They both have what look like similar organs but one is male and one is female. If you have a male tree it’s easy to tell – if you had a tree that was pretty old and you thought it might have flowered while you weren’t looking, the seed is extremely viable so it’ll have seedlings underneath and that applies to almost all kinds of trees–unless you’re a fanatical mower, which people in the city might be, more so than in the country. I don’t use herbicides so  the best indication as to whether you have a female tree is seedlings underneath. If you don’t have even one seedling underneath, then it’s most likely a male and that applies to any kind of tree.

Sheryl:   How old will it be before you know whether it’s going to be female?
David:    Four or five years. You’ll see flowers appear.

Sheryl:   How true to type do you think a seedling Reineke comes?
David:   My friend Andrew planted seeds from my Reineke. I asked him but he says the results are mixed since he has other seedlings in the same orchard.

Sheryl:   What do you think of seedlings opposed to grafted types?
David:    I got my original seeds from Mexico and ended up with a very high percentage of male trees and meanwhile discovered that one of my trees (a grafted “Reineke”) was better than any of the seedlings. Some of the others were as large or fruited well but the grafted had a better flavour so, just leaving two male trees I replaced all the others with grafted Reineke. This variety was collected by a Californian, Mr Reineke in 1880 in Northern Mexico. “ Bernecker” is another cultivar with a good reputation but mixed results. Other cultivars are not recommended.

Sheryl:   Most of our members are only in a small way and what we try and do is encourage growing only the best variety and we’re trying to undertake a survey to find out who has the best variety of particular trees as it’s no use growing mediocre fruit if you only have one of each kind. What do you consider your best trees?
David:    I agree entirely. Besides the Reineke Black Sapote, I have a Canistel which I call “Gold Top” which will grow to 9 metres and equal across. It has only one seed and it gets a little less sweet as it ripens. More flesh does tend to allow the flavour to develop in a richer way. In Star Apples I like the green “Newcomb” and of course the purple “Haitiian”. The Abiu is a bit like Canistel in that if it only has one seed then you’d prefer that to a fruit having 2 seeds (or more). Since you mentioned having difficulty with grafted Abiu (below), perhaps we could make an exception to what we’re saying here. One out of four Abius is outstanding, so why not just plant four trees in one spot, and cut out the bad ones? The Ross Sapote is a type of Canistel but it’s not terribly reliable as the tree itself is not quite as good. I have a good Durian but you couldn’t grow them down there. When you plant small Durians here, if they get sunburned twice when young, that’s it!

Sheryl: One of our members tried some Antidesmas from Tony Irvine’s place at Yungaburra and liked them. David He’s a former CSIRO rainforest researcher who is brilliant. I’ve been thinking of starting a native fruit section on my website but only ones that are palatable. Athertonia diversifolia – Dave Bender is working on this and he lives close by Ph: 4065 5171 Tony Irvine and the Mamu Aboriginal Authority in conjunction with the Wet Tropics Management Authority put out a Bush Tucker poster which was in the Cairns Post last year.

Sheryl:  A lot of our members are having problems with their grafted Abiu – any ideas?

David:    In general it’s harder to grow grafted trees in the early years, so Brisbane, being a marginal area for Abiu, may experience difficulties. There are no intrinsic problems with grafting Abiu. We have two different crops, a cool season crop and a summer crop. Mine don’t produce in the cool season since my seeds came from the eastern side of the Andes. If your heritage is from the eastern side of the Andes you will also get winter crops. The winter crop has to be fully coloured but that’s not the case with the summer crop. One third to one half coloured is best when you take it off the tree. Limberlost Nursery in Cairns was selling a cultivar called ‘Winter’ because it had a good crop in winter. I pick mine around Feb to March. If you wait for full colour in summer, then the pests will attack it or it will just be brown inside. On the Internet I found an article on Abiu with a picture attached which showed a horrible brown-inside Abiu which you would never eat. Funny! If you have a tree fruiting, then you should pick the fruit as early as possible.
Sheryl:    John Hatch has the winter type I believe.

Sheryl:   Ants – how do you keep them off your trees?
David:   We have mainly green tree ants so the common ones aren’t a problem. I believe they don’t occur south of Rockhampton.
Fertiliser – I use chicken manure and rock dust from the quarry. When they wash down their machines, they end up with a pond and they want to get rid of it so they’ll give it to me for almost nothing as they want to get rid of it. They call it Pond Dust. I get it for $5.00 per cubic metre.

Sheryl:    One of our members is looking for a female Cecropia peltata
David:     This plant is a serious pest and you may not notice it until its 10 metres tall! It’s taken over whole sections of the Botanic Gardens lining the banks of the river in Bogor, Java and I have had some escapes here. Fortunately it is dioecious. Destroy all plants.

Sheryl:    Members are having trouble getting Sapodillas to grow.
David:     It’s usually an incompatibility between the scion and the rootstock and nobody has selected a good rootstock. Many trees are very slow or just don’t grow. Another problem in the Sapotaceae species. Mangoes don’t do very well up here because of the humidity. Anthracnose attacks the flowers.

David:    I don’t net my trees as I haven’t budgeted for it. My main fruits are ones I don’t have much trouble with: Langsat and Durian. Langsat take 15 years to fruit.
Jackfruit How to tell if ripe? Score the peduncle (stem) above the fruit with your fingernail and look at the latex. If it doesn’t flow very well, you can pick it. Some cultivars have a lot of latex inside the fruit. Kerry McAvoy who lives nearby has had a Borneo selection I introduced called “Rajang” grafted by Peter Gillet of Townsville. Also recommended is “Amber”. People are planting hundreds of these cultivars. I’ve moved on from Jackfruit to Chempedak which is similar but I think superior–you can even eat the seeds of the Chempedak. Presently [latest news] three Chempedak cultivars of mine are being reproduced. If you have a lot of fruit on a Jakfruit tree, I don’t think there’s any need to remove some of them but then I probably don’t have the time to do that. I do get branches breaking from heavy crops.

Cherry of the Rio Grande  If it doesn’t fruit, then it’s probably bad genes. A lot of the Syzygiums are very reluctant although I don’t know specifically about Cherry of the R.G. I have a tree but it hasn’t done anything – it might be too shaded. You could try cincturing but don’t cincture more than half the circumference of the tree and only use a thin hacksaw blade.

Sheryl:   Rollinia flowers profusely but no fruit.
David:    Maybe the grower hasn’t waited long enough as they take about 3 years to fruit but they flower after 18 months. They require good humidity and up here you can have 3 crops a year Sept Dec April but if the weather is very dry, it is recommended to try misting and you could also try hosing upwards from below. The actual humidity within the flower is the critical thing. This applies to all Annonas. What causes lack of pollination are the organs getting too dry.

Underground Chempedak   Sometimes jackfruit produces fruit on its larger roots which as they grow may bulge out of the ground, convenient for man and beast. This ability has been exploited by growers in Malaysia of the closely related Chempedak. The young tree is planted at the bottom of a hole 90cm deep and 180cm wide and as it grows the stem of the tree is wrapped in a bamboo tube so that lack of light closes the plant’s fibres to stay weak and pliable. When it grows to the top of the hole, the tube is removed and the plant is trained to curl spirally around the hole. The stem is then covered with loose mulch and once again the tip of the plant is inserted into a tube. The plant – the process is repeated until the hole is filled and the tree is permitted with training to produce a normal leafy top. As the plant grows to maturity, it regards its untrained part as its trunk and since Chempedak normally bears fruit on the trunk (cauliflory), there they appear – underground chempedak. These fruit are reported to be a great delicacy by all those who have tried them and is claimed to be a better flavour then the regular chempedak. Jackfruit could possibly be similarly trained. I also grow Taro and I’m the Secretary of Taro Growers Australia. I put out a newsletter and the best cultivar is “Bun Long” which has the purple spot in the centre of the leaf and the corms are flecked purple. Taro is also imported into Australia from the islands and we’re a bit concerned with some of the diseases like Taro Blight that could come in. I’m planting the native Noni and there’s a growers association and I’m also in the midst of culling a lot of trees from my property. I’ve formulated a newsletter for the Organic Producer’s Association of Queensland (OPAQ).

Fruit Piercing Moth is a problem in Citrus. They over-winter here if it’s warm but if there’s a cool winter they die off. They don’t attack the other fruit too much. They can’t attack the two main winter fruits which are the black sapote and canistel or star apples because of the latex so it’s more the thinner skinned fruits you might get down south. They don’t attack most of our fruits here.

Fruit Spotting Bug They are a problem on a number of tropical fruit trees but often the fruit recovers eg they’ll attack small durians and in some cases the fruit will drop off but the wound will usually just heal over but because the durians are divided into locules, it’s usually only the locule that’s been attacked. It’s one case where killing the individual insect is a good plan—just one can be causing much damage; as you approach, it will move around to the far side of the tree or branch. So reach around and get it from behind.

Sheryl:   There’s a chap in Mareeba doing research.
David:   I didn’t know that but the bug attacks bananas and vegetables like cucumbers, zucchinis. They can also cause some of the drop that occurs in Mangosteen.

David has an interesting book called Wild Fruits and Vegetables in Sarawak put out by the Dept. of Agriculture in Sarawak which was given to him by Kim Ong from Brisbane.

David Chandlee lives at 120 Shellpocket Road, El Arish, (not his mailing address) Ph: 07 4068 5263 Mail gets to him at: Tree Farm, El Arish Qld 4855. There is no postal delivery. He built his own home complete with solar power and doesn’t have a fridge!


Website:  David has seeds for sale on his website as well as articles he has written.  

Article compiled by Sheryl Backhouse