Fresh Plaza is an online publisher of news concerning the global fresh produce industry. An article it ran this week reports that consumers around the U.S. are discovering what we in southern Florida have known for a long time: Jackfruit is really good to eat! Richard Lyons’ Nursery has been growing jackfruit for over a decade, and we look forward to the upcoming season. Normally production in our area begins in May, but this year’s warmer-than-normal winter may mean an earlier start. Meanwhile, enjoy Fresh Plaza’s article on the burgeoning interest in jackfruit.

Increase in demand as a meat substitute and good nutritional value

Jackfruit trend is good news for Mexican growers importing into the USA

Good news for jackfruit growers in Mexico. Not only does their proximity mean better pricing than overseas imports, but it seems like it’s approaching trend status, with many types of customers in North America.
Within the last few weeks several articles have been published, including’s recent piece about the “jackfruit craze”. It has great applications as a meat substitute for vegetarians and those in foodservice who cater to them.
Last Friday Luis Enrique Garcia of It’s Montse Fruit Inc. was in Nayarit on the Pacific Coast of Mexico negotiating prices for jackfruit. “Right now the prices are a little higher because it’s the beginning of the season and supply is low,” he said. “All of the growers seem to be happy with the import projections for this year. The jackfruit market keeps going up. There’s more demand every year.” He says US customers are learning more about its nutritional value and since it’s proving to be a good meat substitute he says, “The market will only get bigger every year.”
It’s already meant that growers have been increasing their acreages of jackfruit, some at the expense of other commodities. “A lot of the growers in Mexico are taking down other fruit trees and replacing with jackfruit because it makes more business sense.” This is a huge jackfruit success, considering that just recently, in the late 80’s, Mr. Robert Brown introduced the first jackfruit trees in this region and Carlos Sanchez exported the first truckload of jackfruit in 1992.
Over the next few weeks Garcia will be importing two to three truckloads from Mexico each week, and similar load quantities will also arrive from other businesses and he estimates an overall 20- 30 truckloads will be coming into the USA during the peak season.
For more information:
Luis Enrique Garcia
It’s Montse Fruits Inc.
Tel: 956-559-8030

Lipstick Tree (Bixa orellana)

Bixa orellana, the Lipstick Tree, has to be one of the most fascinating plants found anywhere. It has been valuable, versatile and popular for so long that no one knows exactly where in the New World Tropics it originated.

The species name honors Francisco de Orellana, a Spanish conquistador of the 16th century, who, according to one commentator, accidentally discovered the Amazon. But, honestly, isn’t any discovery accidental? That’s really a metaphysical question, worthy of separate debate, perhaps at the next Richard Lyons Philosophy Week and Chutney Festival. At any rate, Mr. Orellana was the first European known to have navigated the entire Amazon River, and that’s worthy of some recognition. We hope he reveled in the feat, because, regrettably, his ship capsized at the mouth of the Amazon a few years later, and he ended up swimming with the fishes.

Also known as the annatto dye plant, achiote, bijol or urucu, B. orellana grows into a shrub or small tree 6-20 ft. tall. Its pinkish-white flowers are followed by a bright red, heart-shaped, very bristly and inedible fruit capsule. When ripe, the capsule turns brown, hardens and splits open, revealing a large quantity of seeds embedded in orange-red pulp. An individual plant can produce lots of fruit: up to 270 kg. (nearly 600 lb.).

But the Lipstick Tree is not just another pretty face. In addition to having great ornamental value, Bixa possesses many other desirable properties. Historically, the Aztecs and Maya had a high regard for B. orellana, and not just as an aphrodisiac. The crushed seeds contain a reddish dye — the so-called annatto juice — whose main constituents, bixin and norbixin, are carotenoids. Practically all Mayan scriptures were written in annatto juice. It should come as no surprise, then, that research is being conducted on the potential for incorporating annatto in printer inks. The dye has also long been used by indigenous peoples as body paint, on textiles and, of course, for lipstick.

Annatto is also employed as a color additive in foods all the way from Latin America to the Philip-pines. The dye is used as a less expensive alternative to saffron in coloring and flavoring rice.  In addition it is arguably a much less costly substitute for beta carotene, though it appears to lack a concerted marketing push toward that end.

Take a look at grocery product labels, and you will discover that annatto is among the most popular of food dyes in the United States. The Food and Drug Administration places it in the category of colorings known as GRAS (Generally Recognized As Safe), and domestic products containing annatto include butter, cheeses, custards, candies and spreads. Elsewhere, the dye appears in pop- corn, breads, chicken and pork. Seeds are separated from the pulp and used as a mild spice. (While some individuals report an allergic reaction to annatto, what they actually may be sensitive to is chemicals involved in the commercial extraction of the dye.)

Aside from foods, annatto dye appears as a coloring agent in fingernail polish, shoe polish, floor wax, hair oil, lacquer, varnish, soap, cosmetics, furniture, ointments and leather. The pulp is also used to repel insects.

From ancient times, medicinal uses for annatto have been well known, and they have covered an impressive range of maladies: dermatological problems, high cholesterol, heartburn, malaria, fevers, liver disorders, burns, dysentery, digestive ailments, snakebites, coughs, prostate disorders, hyperten- sion, obesity, vaginitis, eye infections, and epilepsy. While historically roots, shoots, bark, leaves and seeds of B. orellana have all proven to possess medicinal properties, today scientists concentrate  only on the benefits derived from seeds and seed paste. The high anti-oxidant properties of bixin and norbixin appear to be receiving a lot of attention, and the same two carotenoids have been found to lower blood sugar levels.

Richard Lyons’ Nursery has these exceptional trees in various sizes. Heads-up:  If you intend to leave the plant in the container for a while, separate it from the soil underneath the pot, because it roots out readily.

Bixa orellana (Lipstick Tree)

Bixa orellana (Lipstick Tree)

Bixa orellana (Lipstick Tree)


Plants Toxic to Dogs and Cats

Many of us reside in southern Florida because of the wonderful winter climate that permits us not only to enjoy the great outdoors without bundling up, but to cultivate thousands of tropical plants.  However, as the old saying goes, there is no good unalloyed, and not every plant is benign. If you own a dog or cat, it behooves you to become familiar with the species that may harm your pet.  Below you will find a list of a few of the tropical plants known to affect pet health adversely. (The list should in no way be considered all-inclusive; you are urged to research the topic on your own for additional information.)
Ricinus communis (Castor Bean): While this species is the source of castor oil, it also possesses a darker side: Its seeds contain the highly toxic substance ricin — which received great attention after 9/11 as a means of conducting chemical/biological warfare — and ingestion of just a few seeds by a dog or cat can set up a fatal chain of neurological events.
Dieffenbachia (Dumbcane), Aglaonema (Chinese Evergreen), Monstera deliciosa (Monstera) and Alocasia (Elephant’s Ear): The common name Dumbcane provides a hint of the harm that these species of aroids can cause. Ingestion of the calcium oxalate crystals found in the leaves of these plants can cause swelling inside the mouth of your pet (and humans may find themselves unable to speak). Dogs and cats may experience intense burning and swelling, along with drooling and vomiting.
Nerium oleander (Oleander): This flowering shrub, better-known simply as Oleander, is an Old World native that has achieved widespread distribution throughout milder climates in the United States. Its dicey constituents are known as cardiac glycosides, and while they have beneficial medical applications, in the concentrations found in all parts of the plant they can be toxic to dogs and cats.  Symptoms include diarrhea, sweating, poor coordination, compromised breathing, tremors, and abnormal cardiac functions. Even inhalation of the smoke of oleander trimmings being burned can be toxic.
Aloe vera (Aloe vera): This popular plant is well-known for providing relief for burns through application of its gel, but what’s good in it can also harm pets. Among the many chemical constituents of Aloe vera are saponins, which have long been used in soapmaking. However, when ingested by dogs or cats, saponins can cause anorexia, depression, diarrhea, and tremors.
Lycopersicon spp. (Tomato): Few people think of the tomato as potentially harmful to domestic pets, but its leaves contain the chemical solanine, which can cause the following symptoms in cats and dogs: loss of appetite, central nervous system depression, slow heart rate, drowsiness, diarrhea, confusion, severe gastrointestinal upset, weakness, dilated pupils, and behavioral change.
Vinca spp. (Periwinkle): Here’s another example of a plant containing chemical constituents — in this case vinca alkaloids — which do both good and harm. While the compounds are used to treat certain cancers in humans, they can also cause severe problems when ingested by small pets, including low blood pressure, diarrhea, depression, tremors, vomiting, seizures, coma, and even death.
Asparagus densiflorus cv. sprengeri (Asparagus Fern): This ubiquitous ground cover contains sapogenins, which can cause a lot of mischief in cats and dogs. If your pet is regularly exposed to the leaves of the plant, allergic dermatitis may set up. More significantly, ingestion of the berries of this plant can result in gastric problems such as abdominal pain, vomiting, and/or diarrhea.
Crassula arborescens (Silver Jade Plant): Unlike other species discussed in this article, the toxin at work here is unknown, but the the dog or cat that takes a liking to the plump leaves of this succulent plant may soon find itself experiencing a bout of retching or nausea.
Allium cepa (Onion): We know that the onion is a heart-healthy vegetable for humans, but much less well-known is the fact that it may cause misery in pets, particularly cats. The culprit is N-propyl disulfide, which can cause a broad spectrum of symptoms, including gastrointestinal upset, breakdown of red blood cells, vomiting, weakness, panting, elevated heart rate, and blood in the urine.
Gloriosa superba (Gloriosa Lily): This herbaceous perennial produces beautiful, delicate flowers after lying dormant during the dry season. But it also produces colchicine-related alkaloids throughout the plant, and they can cause salivation, diarrhea, vomiting, kidney failure, shock, liver damage, and bone marrow suppression.
Kalanchoe spp. (Mother of Millions): These succulent plants tend to produce offspring, often in maddening numbers, interestingly at the margins of leaves. Most flower during the winter. The constituent which can affect your cat or dog is bufodienolides, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting and, occasionally, abnormal heart rhythm.
Citrus aurantifolia (Key Lime) and Citrus latifolia (Tahiti or Persian Lime): Ingestion of both these types of limes can cause distress in dogs and cats, including depression, vomiting and diarrhea.  Furthermore, as in humans, exposure in sunlight to psoralens, oils found in the rinds of these fruits, can set up a very strong allergic reaction. (The risk of photosensitive reactions explains why when limes were grown commercially in Florida they were packed in covered structures.)
Brugmansia spp. (Angel’s Trumpet): The seven species in this genus produce showy, pendant, trumpet-shaped flowers, but all plant parts contain toxic levels of tropane alkaloids which are capable of causing fatal reactions upon ingestion. At the very least, pets (and humans) who swallow the leaves, seeds or flowers of Brugmansias can experience blurred vision, dilated pupils, constipation, high blood pressure, and muscle weakness.
The foregoing brief survey of toxic plants found in southern Florida is not meant to alarm plant enthusiasts who also own cats and dogs. On the contrary, it should reassure you that despite being surrounded by germplasm that contains toxic substances, your pets rarely find themselves compromised. What we hope is that on the rare occasions when your pet does ingest part of a toxic plant, you will recognize symptoms at a very early stage and make a call to your veterinarian for advice.

Pink Shower Tree (Cassia bakeriana)

One of the most successful flowering tree introductions to southern Florida in the past 15 years has been Cassia bakeriana. Native to Thailand and Burma (Myanmar), the Pink Shower Tree blooms profusely in the spring, producing flowers that progress from pink to lighter pink to white. The flowers attract butterflies and bees. Newly-emerging leaves are velvety. This fast-growing species matures in the 20-30 ft. range, with a nearly equal spread. It is somewhat smaller than a longtime Florida favorite, Cassia javanica, the Apple Blossom Shower Tree.

C. bakeriana is not only beautiful, but also undemanding. A sunny exposure and good drainage are its only significant requirements. After the tree becomes established on its site, it will exhibit some drought tolerance. The flexible branches of this species are capable of resisting breakup in heavy winds. It also appears not to be susceptible to the stem-end borers that affect some other Cassia species.

The staff at Richard Lyons’ Nursery believes that the Pink Shower Tree is, without exaggeration, the tropical equivalent of Cherry Blossom Trees. We offer C. bakeriana in 3- and 7-gal. containers.

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Pssst! Wanna Know a Secret?

The folks at Richard Lyons’ Nursery are eager to let you in on one of the best-kept secrets in the tropical plant community: The Bridalveil Tree is a great plant!

Native to northern South America, Caesalpinia granadillo is a moderate-sized tree that assumes a vase-shaped profile at maturity. In its home region, the Bridalveil reaches 35 ft., but in the thin soils of southern Florida it tends to top out about 10 ft. shorter. Its common name reflects the lacy aspect of its small leaflets. It bears yellow flowers a couple of times of year at the top of its canopy, but what really make this tree special is its bark, which exfoliates, or peels, to reveal green-gray-cream mottling. Whether Bridalveil is grown as a single specimen or in a multi-tree row, it contributes a striking element to our landscape.

Bridalveil has other desirable traits. It is easy to grow and free of major diseases or pests. Neither its flowers nor its leaflets nor its fruits creates a problem with litter. And it is capable of thriving in a wide variety of soils – alkaline or acidic, sand or clay – so long as good drainage is provided. Caesalpinia granadillo is moderately drought-tolerant once acclimated to its planting site, which should be in full sun. Some judicious pruning in the early years of these trees is beneficial to keeping branches from becoming embedded in the crotches of the lower crown.

Richard Lyons’ Nursery is offering a New Year’s special on the Bridalveil Tree. From now until the end of January 2017, you can buy these fine plants in 7-gal. containers for $35 apiece.