We have Jackfruit

Jackfruit on the tree

Artocarpus heterophyllus (Jackfruit) on the tree.

I know some of you have been waiting since last season ended. The wait is finally over. The jackfruit is back, and we have a beautiful fruit this year.

If you aren’t familiar with jackfruit, this is a tropical treasure. It has a unique flavor somewhere between banana and pineapple mixed with other tropical notes of flavor. The spiny fruits are spectacular in size and can get upwards of 70 pounds.

For a really unique experience, come by our nursery in Miami today and buy some jackfruit for a taste of this Asian treasure.


Beaucarnea recurvata

Quick! Can you name a beautiful ornamental succulent plant that somehow belongs in the same family as hyacinth and asparagus? Our choice is Beaucarnea recurvata, a uniquely constructed tree native to arid parts of southeastern Mexico. In those areas, Beaucarnea can reach 30 ft. high after many years, but in cultivation it tends to stay shorter. It starts life as a single-trunked plant, but as it grows it may develop several upright branches, each topped by a rosette of flat, long, narrow ribbon- like leaves. Upon maturing, it produces creamy-white flowers on a stalk extending above each tuft of leaves.

At the opposite end of the plant is another distinctive feature — a swollen base, or caudex, vaguely resembling an elephant’s foot. The purpose of this structure is to store water, and therein lies a clue as to Beaucarnea‘s cultural preference: It thrives in sunny, dry conditions. Fortunately, it tolerates southern Florida’s climate perfectly well as long as it is planted in a well-drained site. It is also capable of thriving in container culture for many years, and its size can be moderated by keeping it potted. Beaucarnea can also be grown successfully indoors, provided that it is kept near a source of strong light and watering is drastically reduced.

Beaucarnea recurvata is often called the Ponytail Palm, but, aside from also being a monocot, it is not related to palms. You can find this very interesting tree at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 7-gallon containers, as well as large field-grown specimens.


Beaucarnea recurvata (Ponytail Palm, 7-gal. pot)

Beaucarnea recurvata (Ponytail Palm, field- grown)

Beaucarnea recurvata (Ponytail Palm, field- grown)

Beleaguered Florida Citrus Continues its Slide

Richard Lyons’ Nursery for some time has been warning consumers of the dangers of citrus greening, the prime cause of the decline in Florida’s signature fruit crop. There is still no known cure for the disease.

The first federal citrus crop forecast for 2016-17 is not an optimistic one for Florida. The National Agriculture Statistics Service (NASS) is predicting that, compared to 2015-16, which was itself weak, orange production in the state will decline by 14% and grapefruit production by 11.5%. In a press release addressing that forecast, Florida’s Agriculture Commissioner, Adam Putnam, noted that citrus production in the state is down 70% from its level 20 years ago, and stressed that “the future of Florida citrus depends on a breakthrough in the fight against greening.”

Shannon Shepp is the executive director of the Florida Department of Citrus, and his view is somewhat more optimistic than that of Putnam. He observed that growers are forging ahead with fresh plantings, which, along with new agricultural techniques, will allow them “to maintain the viability of their groves.” Shepp predicts that the Florida citrus industry will prevail over citrus greening.

Nevertheless, until a reliable cure is found for greening, Richard Lyons Nursery will not sell citrus trees and will continue to advise consumers looking to purchase fruit trees to avoid citrus.

Polyalthia longifolia (Mast Tree)

About 40 years ago, a Miami couple fresh from a long trip to Asia brought seeds of an attractive Indian evergreen tree to Fairchild Tropical Garden. Over time this species, Polyalthia longifolia (a/k/a P. longifolia var. pendula), has proven to be a very successful introduction to the landscape of southern Florida. Commonly known as the Mast Tree –– ship masts are among the products manufactured from its wood –– it is pyramidal, or spindle-shaped, and capable of reaching 30+ ft. in height. It features long drooping branches and dark green lance-shaped glossy leaves with undulating margins. Polyalthia provides an excellent alternative to Italian Cypress, which in southern Florida is prone to spider mites and fungal disorders. The Mast Tree is classified in the same family as Ylang-Ylang, Custard Apple and Soursop, which were introduced to our area much earlier.

In the landscape of bustling Asian cities, the Mast Tree is often used to soften noise. Aside from its ornamental appeal, Polyalthia is said to contain medicinal properties. (In fact, the genus name itself is derived from the Greek words for ‘many cures.’) Studies reputedly confirm antifungal and antibacterial capacities, as well as usefulness in combating ulcers, fever, hypertension, diabetes, and certain cancers. At Richard Lyons’ Nursery, these handsome trees are available in 3-, 7- and 15-gallon sizes.

Polyalthia longifolia (Mast Tree)

Polyalthia longifolia (Mast Tree Flowers)

Swiss Cheese Vine (Monstera deliciosa)

Fewer plants have a stranger appellation than Monstera deliciosa, but at least the name is half right! This sturdy aroid has been described by one prominent botanist as “probably the finest foliage plant ever introduced into horticulture.” But it is even more than that, because it produces a delicious fruit that combines the tastes of pineapple, banana and even mango! The vine was introduced to England in 1752, but in the indirect way by which many tropical plants became distributed around the planet, the fruit of Monstera, despite the species’ New World origin, did not debut in the United States until 1874.

As for the name Monstera, the origin is a little fuzzy. Some believe that an ancient Greek term for aroids, Dracontium, meaning dragon or snake, was transformed into a French equivalent which later emerged in its Latin form as Monstera; others speculate that the name comes from the Latin word denoting a wonder or an exceptional thing. We may never be certain, but what isn’t in dispute is the beauty of the plant. While the leaves of a young M. deliciosa are solid and heart-shaped, giving no early clue to any exceptional qualities, as the plant develops, the glossy, symmetrical leaves become much larger, split at the edges, and develop holes, often oblong, near the center. The mature leaf gives rise to the species’ widely-known common name, Swiss Cheese Plant. Under ideal conditions, the leaves of Monstera can exceed 3 ft. in length.

Monstera is a liana, i.e., a woody vine, native from Mexico to Panama, which in the wild may reach 70 ft., climbing trees to reach into the rain forest canopy. Surprisingly, a newly-germinated seedling initially does not grow toward the light. Instead it moves toward darker areas of the forest until it hits the base of a tree which will become its host. Only after attachment to the tree will it climb toward the light. Later on, aerial roots descend from the Monstera vine high in the air to the ground.

But M. deliciosa does not need to be grown only as a liana in the landscape. Its versatility allows it to be maintained as an impressive mid-size hedge. One of its best applications is to soften fences or walls at the edges of a property, and it possesses a wide range of light and water tolerance once established.

Like many aroids, when M. deliciosa is mature enough to flower, it produces an off-white, boat-shaped bract, known as a spathe, which surrounds an upright spike, known as a spadix. In a slow-motion process, the pollinated spadix matures into an aromatic fruit that bears a mild resemblance to a corn cob. The “cob” bears hard green, hexagonal, cap-like scales that cover the fruits. The scales begin to pop off the fruits as they ripen. The rule of thumb is that last year’s fruits begin to ripen about the time this year’s flowers start to appear. Monstera fruits are not only eaten fresh, but are used to flavor beverages, jams, baked goods, ice cream. sauces, stir fries and syrups. (Please note: Prying the scales off to eat fruits which haven’t ripened naturally is inadvisable, since immature fruits contain calcium oxalates, which will irritate the mouth and throat.)

In spite of Monstera’s tropical origins, it makes a wonderful houseplant, tolerant of low humidity and light watering. About the only thing it won’t do indoors is to fruit. M. deliciosa is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery as field-grown plants and in 3-gal. and 7-gal. containers.

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Vine)

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Vine)

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Vine)

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Vine)

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Vine)

Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Vine)