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.


Scarlet Sage (Salvia coccinea)

When Dr. Edwin Menninger bemoaned the “solid green” of Florida’s native flora, he must have forgotten about Salvia coccinea. If you want to add brilliant color to your home landscape, please consider this striking native shrub. Commonly known as Scarlet Sage, this herbaceous perennial from the family of lamiaceae is native to a huge range from South Carolina to Texas, then south into Central America and southeast into the Caribbean Basin. It attains a height of 2-4 ft. and produces triangular leaves on long leafstems. Bright red flowers roughly an inch long are borne in loose whorls on upright stems. Over time cultivars have been developed to produce pink, white and bicolored flowers. In southern Florida the plant blooms most of the year, but in the mid-south, flowering lasts until first frost. Seeds overwinter in the ground and germinate when warm weather returns.

Scarlet Sage is not a very demanding plant, occurring naturally in dry soils. However, during sustained rainless spells, flowering is not as prolific. It performs best in sunny positions, but can tolerate intermittent shade. S. coccinea makes a good, durable bedding plant and is particularly desirable as a butterfly and hummingbird attractant. This plant is grown at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 1-gal. containers.

Salvia coccinea (Scarlet Sage)

Salvia coccinea (Scarlet Sage)

Salvia coccinea (Red  and Pink Sage)

The Stoppers (Myrtaceae)

This week we take a look at a very interesting group of Florida native plants known collectively as stoppers. All stoppers are members of the Myrtaceae, an enormous family that also includes the genus Eucalyptus. Some grow as shrubs and some as trees. Each of the five described below not only has ornamental value, but also has proven to be pretty irresistible to wildlife.

The Redberry Stopper (Eugenia confusa) is a rare, very slow-growing small to medium-sized tree that seldom reaches much more than 25 ft. In Florida, it occurs in Martin, Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties. In the islands, it is native to the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles, including Puerto Rico, Dominica, Guadeloupe, and Trinidad. The crown is fairly narrow and bears small, stiff, glossy evergreen leaves about 1-2 in. long with pointed tips. The tree produces clusters of white flowers year-round, but more heavily during spring and summer. Not surprisingly, the fruit is a red berry, and it attracts birds. The tree also provides food and cover to other wildlife.

E. confusa prefers most, well-drained soils, whether limestone or sand, but can tolerate brief periods of drought once established. While not demanding of rich soils where native, this species responds well to good nutrition in cultivation. Although the tree is found in coastal hammocks, it will not tolerate constant exposure to salt breeze or long-lasting inundation by salty or brackish water. This species should be grown in full sun to light shade.

The Redberry Stopper is considered by the State of Florida to be endangered.

Red Stopper (Eugenia rhombea), like the Redberry Stopper, has a narrow, rounded crown, but is of a smaller stature, generally maturing in the 8-12 ft. range, but occasionally reaching 15 ft. This species works well in buffer plantings or as a stand-alone small tree or accent shrub. Leaves of the Red Stopper are dark green and 1-2 in. long. The ‘red’ in the common name refers to the color of new foliage.

Historically, E. rhombea ranges from Miami-Dade and Monroe Counties in Florida into Mexico, Central America and northern South America. However, it is no longer found natively in mainland Miami-Dade County and only rarely encountered in Monroe County. The Institute for Regional Conservation considers the species critically imperiled in southern Florida.

Red Stopper bears white flowers year-round, peaking during the hot months. The fruit of this species is orange-black, maturing to black, and is eaten by birds. The plant also provides food and cover to other wildlife. Soil, water and nutritional needs, as well as salt tolerance, match those of E. confusa.  E. rhombea is best grown in light shade.

The White Stopper (Eugenia axillaris), perhaps because of its large range, is fortunately still common in the wild. It is  found natively from Volusia and Levy Counties, far upstate, skipping northeast to Bermuda, extending south through the Florida Keys and into the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. Maturing to 8-15 ft. in the northerly end of its range, but 25+ ft. in southern Florida, it has long been popular for ornamental use as a large shrub or small tree.

New leaves of E. axillaris are a pinkish-red color before maturing to a dull, dark green on the upper surface and pale on the lower surface, with many tiny black dots. Some observers say that the leaves emit an unpleasant odor, while others do not. This species produces white flowers all year long, but most heavily during the spring and summer; they are followed by reddish or black fruit that provides a significant food source for wildlife.

This species is probably more demanding of good nutrition than the other stoppers. Like them, however, it should not regularly be exposed to salt breezes or salty or brackish water. It can tolerate short periods of drought once established. The White Stopper is best grown in full sun to light shade.

Simpson’s Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans) commemorates Charles Torrey Simpson, botanist, conservationist and Sage of Biscayne Bay, for whom Simpson Park just south of downtown Miami is also named. Its species name refers to the sweet aroma of the flowers, but the leaves also produce an aromatic smell when crushed. This stopper grows as a large shrub or small to medium-sized tree with reddish peeling bark. It usually matures in the 10-20 ft. range, but 50 ft. is not unheard of in southern Florida. The growth rate is slow to moderate.

M. fragrans is native from Lee, Okeechobee and St. Johns Counties southward through the Keys and into the West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America. Leaves are 1-2 1/2 in. long and semi-glossy on the upper surface. Dots on the leaf surfaces contain the aromatic substances which are released when the leaves are crushed.  Simpson’s Stopper produces clusters of white flowers year-round, but most heavily during the spring and summer. The flowers are followed by orange to red globose berries that provide a food source to a variety of wildlife.

This species is native to moist, well-drained limestone or sandy soils. Like the other stoppers, it does not like long exposures to salt air or salty or brackish water. Drought tolerance is moderate once a plant is established in a new site. For best results, grow Simpson’s Stopper in full sun to light shade.

The State of Florida lists this species as threated.

Spanish Stopper (Eugenia foetida) differs from the species discussed above in that it regularly produces multiple thin, erect stems. The bark of those reddish-brown stems is smooth when young, then develops concentric rings as it ages. Atop the stems is a dense, rounded crown bearing leathery leaves 3/4 to 1 1/2 in. long. The species name is derived from the fact that crushed leaves may emit an unpleasant scent. As a tall shrub or small to medium-size tree, E. foetida generally matures to 8-15 ft. It makes an excellent buffer or accent planting.

Spanish Stopper ranges from Brevard and Manatee Counties down along the east coast of Florida through the Keys and into the West Indies, Mexico and Central America. Fortunately, it is still fairly common throughout its range.

Like E. axillaris, the Spanish Stopper is more demanding nutritionally than most stoppers. However, its soil and water requirements are similar to those of the other species reviewed here. While its saltwater tolerance is low, it can endure salt breezes remarkably well. The growth rate of this species is slow to moderate.

This species produces clusters of white flowers throughout the year, but particularly during the summer. They are followed by brown to black berries which attract a variety of animals. Spanish Stopper also provides a significant source of cover for wildlife.

In summary, all five of the Florida stoppers make wonderful additions to the residential landscape, and as slow to moderate growers, they will never become out of scale to even the smallest of yards.  They are available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3 gal. containers.

By the way, were you wondering why these species are called stoppers? Stories have come and gone over the years, but the most accurate appears to be that tribes made a tea out of the leaves of these species, particularly White Stopper, to stop diarrhea. Suffice it to say that nowadays you probably just want to concentrate on the ornamental appeal of these plants.

Cassia roxburghii (Red Shower Cassia)

A person could almost feel sorry for the genus Cassia. Once very sizable, it has been sliced and diced by reclassification since 1982. At roughly 100 species now, it is but a shadow of its former self. However, some very formidable ornamental species remain in Cassia. One of those is C. roxburghii, f/k/a C. marginata.

Known as the Red Shower Cassia, C. roxburghii is native to Sri Lanka and southern India, where it matures to between 49 and 66 ft. tall. Although, as frequently observed in southern Florida, our poor soils reduce its height somewhat, the Red Shower Cassia is still taller than many of the other Cassias. As a legume, this species has compound pinnate leaves, and it bears its seeds in pods. The twigs of this tree are covered with fine hairs.

While the dominant floral color in the genus Cassia is yellow, C. roxburghii features flowers that are in the red/pink/rose spectrum. Though individual flowers are not very large, they are held in clusters so numerous at the peak of blooming that the spreading tree becomes a sea of color.

The Red Shower Cassia is not just another pretty face. In addition to its great ornamental value, it also has interesting medicinal properties. For instance, an extract from its leaves possesses proven wound-healing properties. Leaves also contain some anti-oxidant properties. And its seeds yield anthraquinone glycosides, compounds that can be processed into anti-inflammatory medications.

C. roxburghii is not a demanding tree. It grows and flowers well in full sun or partial shade, and it will thrive where regular watering is combined with good drainage. Richard Lyons’ Nursery carries this very decorative species in 3-gal. containers.

A Persimmon Triumphs in Florida!

The persimmon (Diospyros kaki), Chinese in origin, is a wonderful fruit which unfortunately has had a reputation for doing poorly in southern Florida. Most of us think of persimmon as a California crop. After all, it was introduced there in the mid-19th century. However, its popularity has led to the creation of more than 2,000 cultivars, and finally Richard Lyons’ Nursery has come upon a hybrid that succeeds in our area.

Fittingly named Triumph, this very tasty cultivar will now allow growers in southern Florida to harvest a fruit – sometimes sold under the name Sharon – that is low in fats, high in dietary fiber, and possessed of anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-hemorrhagic properties.

Persimmon trees are also ornamentally appealing, growing to a moderate size and featuring glossy green leaves. When laden with fruit, they are particularly eye-catching. Triumph bears a tomato-shaped fruit that should be picked when mature – that is, fully-colored but still hard. Left to soften on the tree, the fruit will begin to attract hungry wildlife. The best practice is to leave picked fruit out at room temperature until it softens and its astringency has disappeared.

Triumph grows at a very deliberate rate and will not overwhelm even small yards. Richard Lyons’ Nursery has a limited number of these desirable trees in 1-gal. containers.

Native Florida Coffee Species (Psychotria ligustrifolia, P. nervosa, P. sulzneri)

Since 1958, grower Juan Valdez and his mule, Conchita, have been employed to put us in mind of some of the best coffee in the world. These fictional characters have left an indelible impression on generations of consumers. And right now you might be thinking how nice it would be to stroll through lush fields of coffee in Colombia. But wait. Do you really want to take that long ride to the airport and then stand in line for what seems like hours before you can board the plane? And ticket prices have gotten pretty expensive, too.

Well, here’s an alternative: Did you know that there are four species of wild coffee found in southern Florida? Why not plant some of them in your back yard and become your own coffee grower?

Psychotria ligustrifolia, is commonly known as the Bahama Wild Coffee, but occurs over a larger range — from southern Florida into the West Indies (the Bahamas and the Greater Antilles, but not the Lesser Antilles). While the species is secure in its range, it is considered endangered in Florida. Unlike other species of wild coffee, it is not native to moist forest habitat. Accordingly, when grown in cultivation, care should be taken simply to keep it evenly hydrated. It grows as a medium-sized shrub with shiny, grooved green leaves. It makes a good informal hedge for use as an accent or buffer planting and can adapt to light conditions ranging from fairly deep shade to full sun. It grows more compactly and features darker leaves than P. nervosa. Bahama Wild Coffee produces small white flowers which attract butterflies, followed by red fruit which attracts birds. The birds, as well as other animals, also use this and other wild coffee species for cover. While P. ligustrifolia is related to the coffee of Juan Valdez, it does not produce enough caffeine to qualify it as a substitute.

Psychotria nervosa, commonly known as Wild Coffee, is a medium-sized shrub with shiny, deeply-grooved green leaves about 6 in. long. It is native to lightly-shaded areas in moist forests in a very extensive range from northern Florida into the West Indies, Mexico, Central America, and South America. However, it is quite rare in the lower Florida Keys. It grows at a moderate rate to about 4-6 ft. tall and often about as wide. Once established, the species can tolerate brief droughts. It makes a good informal hedge for use as an accent or buffer planting and can adapt to full-sun exposures.  P. nervosa, the most widely-cultivated wild coffee, prefers moist limestone or sandy soils with a humusy upper layer. Good organic content will help it thrive, but it can tolerate nutrient-poor soils.  It does not tolerate saltwater spray, but can grow near the coast if protected by other vegetation. The plant produces fairly showy white flowers followed by red fruit — safe for human consumption —which looks much like the true coffee bean.

Birds and other animals also enjoy eating the fruit of Wild Coffee. In addition, P. nervosa is a nectar source for several butterflies, including the Atala (Eumaeus atala), not long ago on the brink of extinction.

P. nervosa has historically been, and continues to be, used for medicinal purposes. Hundreds of years ago, it was employed as a treatment for dysentery. In modern times in the West Indies, Mexico and South America, it is used to stop bleeding, to reduce fever, and to treat colds, asthma, swollen feet, stomach aches, and dermatological maladies.

Psychotria sulzneri, the Shortleaf Wild Coffee, is a medium-sized shrub with dull green leaves. It is native to lightly-shaded areas in moist forests and swamps in a fairly large range from Central Florida into the West Indies, Mexico, and Central America. It grows at a moderate rate to about 3-4 ft. tall and about as wide. Once established, the species can tolerate brief droughts. Like P. nervosa, it makes a good informal hedge for use as an accent or buffer planting. P. sulzneri prefers moist limestone or sandy soils with a humusy upper layer. Good organic content will help it thrive, but it can tolerate nutrient-poor soils. Saltwater spray is not tolerated, but it can grow near the coast if protected by other vegetation. The plant produces nondescript green flowers followed by red, orange or yellow fruit.

Birds and other animals eat the fruit of this species. Like P. ligustrifolia and P. nervosa, it is also a nectar source for the Atala Butterfly.

P. sulzneri also possesses medicinal qualities. It has been used to reduce fever and otherwise treat colds, as well as to treat asthma, stomach problems, swelling of limbs, tumors, and dermatological problems.

Psychotria punctata, the Dotted Wild Coffee, differs from the other coffee species found in the wild here by virtue of the raised warts, or dots, on the leaf surfaces. They are, more accurately, nodules caused by bacteria. This species is not native to Florida, but rather to southern Africa, and has escaped here. It is little-known in cultivation.

The three Florida native wild coffee species are available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3- and 7-gal. containers. Conchita the mule not included.

Psychotria ligustrifolia (Bahama Wild Coffee)

Psychotria ligustrifolia (Bahama Wild Coffee Berries)

Psychotria ligustrifolia (Bahama Wild Coffee Berries)

Psychotria ligustrifolia (Bahama Wild Coffee Berries)

Psychotria nervosa (Wild Coffee)

Psychotria sulzneri (Shortleaf Wild Coffee)