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.

The Colorful Jade Vines

This week we’ll take a look at a few jade vines. The term is a little bit confusing, because not all the plants known by that name even belong to the same genus. But what they do have in common is that they are lianas, that is, woody-stemmed vines that climb and twine around their supports. And they are good to look at.

Green Jade Vine, the common name of Strongylodon macrobotrys, hardly does justice to the striking turquoise coloration of the claw-shaped, bat-pollinated flowers. The plant is native to moist forests in the Philippines, where mature specimens can reach nearly 60 ft. long. Despite being found on the 7,100+ islands that make up that republic, the Green Jade Vine is nevertheless considered endangered as a consequence of habitat destruction. The best way to grow this beautiful vine is on a pergola or other structure featuring vertical elements, since the flowers form on cascading trusses that reach several feet in length.

The Black Jade Vine, Mucuna nigricans, is native to eastern Asia and, like the Green Jade Vine, belongs to the bean family. However, its flowers, generally described as dark violet or maroon in color, are not claw-shaped like those of the Green Jade Vine. Instead, they grow in grapelike clusters or bunches about 6 in. wide that hang beneath the plant’s foliage. For best results, grow this species in full sun and provide regular watering.

The Yellow Jade Vine, Mucuna sloanei, is a New World species, native to forests of Central and South America, though it is now distributed widely throughout the tropics. In addition to its clustered, elongated yellow flowers, it produces seeds which bear a strong resemblance to small brown hamburgers. In some communities, the seeds are polished for fabrication into trinkets.

Green, Black and Yellow Jade Vines can be found at Richard Lyons’ Nursery primarily in 3-gal. pots, but also in a small number of 15-gal. containers. From time to time, the nursery also stocks the Red Jade Vine, Mucuna bennettii.


Queen’s Wreath (Petrea volubilis)

Words such as ‘spectacular’ and ‘stunning’ have been used to described Petrea volubilis, and that’s not hype. This woody plant, also known as Queen’s Wreath and Sandpaper Vine, produces impressive masses of blue-purple flowers displayed above paler star-shaped calices several times a year and bears a similarity to the wildly-popular temperate vine, Wisteria. The springtime flowering is usually the most dense and showy, but the specimen in the ground at Richard Lyons’ Nursery began putting on a striking burst of color in August.

Petrea is not only native across a huge range from southern Mexico into South America and the Caribbean Basin, but it has also been introduced to many areas of the tropics and subtropics. The common name Sandpaper Vine is a reference to the rough surface of the plant’s dark green leaves. It can be pruned to grow on a trellis, fence, or other support, but if left untrained, it can climb great distances into large trees. In addition, it can be left unsupported in the ground to grow as a rounded shrub or simply be maintained as a containerized plant.

Queen’s Wreath is easy to care for. It is at its best in full sun to filtered light. Once established in the ground, it is quite resistant to wind and drought, and is moderately tolerant of salt air.

Summer Over?

Charles Whited was the longtime local columnist for The Miami Herald. One of the best pieces of advice he provided to recent arrivals in southern Florida was to appreciate subtleties in the climate. Because annual temperatures here don’t vary as much as those in the rest of the U.S., Whited recommended appreciating even the slightest breaks in the weather.

With that thought in mind, the staff of Richard Lyons’ Nursery made a happy discovery while perusing online weather statistics recently: Winter is on the way! According to the source, the peak daily temperature range in eastern Miami-Dade County is 78-91 degrees from July 10 to August 27. That means that on August 28 we began to cool off, at least statistically. And this is where Whited’s counsel must be heeded. By the end of September, the daily temperatures ‘plummet’ only to a range of 76-88 degrees. Subtle indeed! But the seasoned southern Floridian can feel the difference.

Plants feel the difference, too, but not always in a positive way. In order to keep your landscape in top shape, you should not let down your guard as we transition, however slowly, into more pleasant weather. It may seem counter-intuitive, but the period of hottest, steamiest weather does not necessarily give rise to fungal or bacterial problems in plants. Rather, it is during the weeks when nighttime temperatures are retreating that leaf-spot problems can proliferate. Though the nights may be cooler, humidity remains high, and that combination can start serious problems in many of your tropical plants.

So we suggest that you inspect your landscape regularly during the upcoming months for signs of leaf-spot disease. There is a vast selection of chemicals on the market that can help you stave off serious problems. Be sure to read and follow label directions carefully. Some products require a second application 7-10 days after the first, but others remain effective for 30 days between treatments. Finally, rinse your pump sprayer thoroughly after every use in order to keep chemical residues from building up in the tank, hose, or wand.


Ground Covers You May Not Have Thought About, Part X

Having gone through enough Roman numerals to make the Super Bowl people jealous, Richard Lyons’ Nursery today concludes its ground cover series with a peek ahead to vegetable species that are unexpectedly well-suited to enlivening your winter landscape.

Celery, Apium graveolens var. dulce: Celery is a member of the Apiaceae, the important vegetable family that includes carrots. It was first grown for its medicinal properties. A Mediterranean native, it is well-attuned to our region’s mild winters. Celery matures to just over 3 ft. tall, whereupon it produces masses of compound, creamy-white flowers on upright stalks. The flower heads, reminiscent of an umbrella, are called umbels.

Dill, Anethum graveolens: Dill is another of the Apiaceae that doubles as an edible crop and desirable ground cover. Reaching 3-5 ft. high, it features delicate, lacy blue-green leaves borne on slender stems. Like celery, it produces compound flowers, but they are yellow rather than white. This Asian native prefers full-sun exposures and well-drained soils. Both dill and celery are larval hosts for a number of butterfly species.

Swiss Chard, Beta vulgaris subsp. cicla: Today’s quiz: Where is Swiss Chard native? Answer: The Mediterranean, of course! (This beet relative is called Swiss Chard to distinguish it from old varieties of French spinach known as chard.) Not only is this vegetable highly nutritious, it is also downright beautiful, producing glossy, prominently-ribbed green leaves that feature contrasting rib and leafstem coloration that may vary from white to yellow to red. The mature plant reaches 2-3 ft. in height.

Oregano, Origanum vulgare: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Parsley, Petroselinum crispum: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Rosemary, Rosmarinus officinalis: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Tarragon, Artemisia dracunculus var. sativa: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.

Thyme, Thymus vulgaris: See “Herbs for Summer Heat” (August 16, 2013) on this website.




Ground Covers You May Not Have Thought About, Part IX

Richard Lyons’ Nursery today continues its survey of plants that are sometimes overlooked in their capacity as ground covers.

Bromeliads are another plant family comprising species which function well as ground covers. Terrestrial bromeliads, i.e., those species capable of growing in the soil, can be massed to create very striking, colorful ground covers to complement or interrupt the monotony of turf grasses. This use of bromeliads was popularized by Roberto Burle-Marx, famed Brazilian landscape architect/artist. Here are a pair of sun-loving species which we at Richard Lyons’ Nursery recommend:

Giant Bromeliad or Imperial Bromeliad, Alcantarea imperialis ‘Rubra’: This species is endemic to Brazil, specifically the rocky, dry mountainsides of the Serra dos Órgãos (Organ Range) of Rio de Janeiro state. It grows slowly to a diameter of 4-5 ft. and a height of 4 ft. Its leathery leaves, green on top and burgundy beneath, reach 5-6 in. in width. Following a buildup of many years, this imposing plant produces a stout red flower stalk that may hit 7-10 ft. in height, bearing white flowers attractive to butterflies and birds. This bromeliad is not demanding; in fact, too much fertilizer will diminish the strong coloration of the leaves.

Bromelia naranja (Orange Bromeliad), Aechmea blanchetiana: Individual plants of this species grow about as tall as Alcantarea imperialis, but not nearly as wide. However, it pups freely to create a spreading ground cover. Though its upright yellow-orange leaves brighten any setting, its inflorescenses, composed of showy red and yellow bracts, are the real attention-getters, whether from humans, butterflies or hummingbirds. The flower stalks not only persist for months, but may also be utilized in cut arrangements. Like Alcantarea, it is undemanding of anything but good drainage.