Beehive Buzz: Will the Manuka Plant Grow in Louisiana?

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USDA Hardiness Zone.

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Manuka blooms Photo: Missouri Botanical Garden

Local honey is a popular natural sweetener and a healthy food. Honey, in general, has healthful benefits including antioxidants, wound healing, improved digestion, soothing sore throats and more. Dr. Kayanush J. Aryana, a professor in the School of Nutrition and Food Sciences, wrote in an AgCenter article, “Honey acts as a sleep aid by raising insulin levels, which releases serotonin, a chemical converted to melatonin, a critical component in creating sleep. Honey has antibacterial properties because it has bee-derived antibacterial peptide defensin-1, methylglyoxal, hydrogen peroxide, a high osmotic effect, caffeic acid, ferulic acid and low pH. Several phytochemicals, organic acids, vitamins, and enzymes in honey are sources of dietary antioxidants. Honey helps intellectual development through its antioxidants, which help brain cells thrive and stay in great shape. Generally, darker honeys have a higher antioxidant content than lighter honeys. Based on color shades, there are distinct types of honeys, including light, amber and dark. Honey has also been reported to increase the counts of probiotics, namely bifidobacteria and lactobacilli, in the colon.”

The University of Technology at Sydney, Australia, is studying manuka honey, “Manuka honey from New Zealand is already established as a valuable antibacterial agent, particularly for treating slow-healing wounds. Now scientists will evaluate the potential of honey derived from related trees in Australia to meet the increasing worldwide demand for medical honey.”

The manuka plant (Leptospermum scoparium) is native to New Zealand and Australia. What if a gardener or a beekeeper wanted to grow manuka for its healthful honey? Would manuka grow in Louisiana?

The short answer is probably “yes” because manuka will grow in USDA Hardiness Zone of 9 and 10. Coastal Louisiana is in the 9 to 10 Hardiness Zone. Most of Louisiana is in Zone 8 so manuka would have to be protected from cold temperatures like citrus and figs would be when freezing temperatures are forecast.

The website of the Missouri Botanical Garden(MBG) reports that its mature height ranges from 6 feet to 10 feet. It is a long-lived perennial shrub in the myrtle family with evergreen, fragrant foliage. This plant prefers full sun, and fertile soil with acidic pH less than 6.

Manuka blooms from June to July and includes red, pink, or white flowers. These pretty flowers are highly attractive to bees, and their nectar enables honeybees to make medicinal honey.

MBG shared this note about Manuka invasiveness, “This plant has escaped gardens and naturalized in certain parts of Hawaii where it is now considered to be an invasive plant. Double flowered cultivars often produce little seed, however, making them less likely to naturalize.” However, manuka failed to make the USDA’s Invasive Species Profiles List.

An online search of American nurseries that sell manuka plants revealed that California and Arizona have these nurseries. However, one retail nursery in Forest Hill is known to have manuka plants.

Finally, another name for manuka is “tea tree” because Captain Cook, a British explorer, and his crew brewed a drink like tea with the manuka leaves.

If you want to contact “Beehive Buzz,” please send your questions and pictures to Keith Hawkins, Area Horticulture Agent (AHA), 318.264.2448 or . Also, you can be on the “beemail” email list by emailing your request to the address above.

“This work has been supported, in part, by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Renewable Resources Extension Act Award, Accession Number 1011417.”

“Mention of trade names or commercial products and services in this article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute endorsement by Louisiana State University AgCenter.”

7/17/2023 9:11:39 PM
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