CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Hess Nomar has a thing for tropical plants.
He has coaxed pineapple clippings and banana plants to flourish and produce fruit. His latest triumph is a papaya tree that has done so well it's now as tall as his house and has dozens of small papayas sprouting on it.
But here's the problem: Hess lives in Rand, not the tropics. The banana plants and pineapples will do just fine come frost, because they are planted in pots he can haul inside.
The papaya tree, not so much.
Its fast growth has surprised him and his wife, Henrietta.
"The first year we had it in a five-gallon pot," Henrietta said. The couple brought the plant north from St. Petersburg, Fla., a favorite vacation spot — her mom has a condo there. At that point, Hess was able to bring it inside for the winter, letting it go dormant and watering it only occasionally.
Their pet African parrot loved the papaya and gnawed on it to the point that Hess and Henrietta thought the plant was dead. On a whim, he decided to stick the remaining root ball and stump in the ground by his front porch this spring. The plant started to grow.
And grow. When they returned from a weeklong vacation in July, they saw a surprising difference in the growth and then the tree took off, producing flowers that hardened off and became fruit.
"We need to move down to Florida," Henrietta said.
With October approaching and cooler nights ahead, Hess is scratching his head about what to do with the tree. He hates to see it die, which it surely will as soon as there's frost — in fact, nights are getting so cool it's unlikely the fruit will ripen to the point of being edible. The tree is too big to bring inside. And he hates to whack it back and start all over again.
"I think that would look pretty in a mall," he said. Really, any spacious, sunny public space would be suitable for the tree, which he figures would be a nice novelty for this area. The tree can grow to 36 feet tall and its palm-like leaves can reach 28 inches long.
The Nomars are happy to donate the tree and they hope to do it before it gets much colder. Henrietta said anyone interested in having it may email her at hett...@yahoo.com.
Contact writer Monica Orosz at mon...@dailymail.com or 304-348-4813.