Biscayne Prickly Ash (Zanthoxylum coriaceum)

Does this name fail to ring a bell with you?  Fret not; you aren’t alone.  Biscayne Prickly Ash is among the rarest, and least known, of our state’s native flora.  While the small tree occurs naturally from the western Caribbean into Florida, from Palm Beach County south, coastal development has been making it vanish.  (It may already be extinct in Palm Beach County.)  If not for the alertness of a City of Miami parks naturalist, a small local stand on Virginia Key Beach would have been lost a few years ago.  A landscape crew was about to chop down the Prickly Ash trees when the naturalist, Juan Fernandez, discovered them and arranged for their preservation.  The small population has since grown, but, according to one account, still only 74 exist natively in the U.S.

Z. coriaceum is worth saving not only due to its status as an endangered species, but also because it is a desirable ornamental tree.  Maturing to about 20 ft., it is particularly recommended for properties where space is at a premium.  It features oblong, aromatic, glossy green leaves and a fairly tidy growth habit.  Its off-white to green flowers occur year-round, and pollinated female flowers produce pea-sized fruits that mature from green to dark brown and attract a number of bird species.  Prickles, or spines, that give rise to the common name occur on the trunk and branches, but as the tree ages, the trunk spines give way to interesting corky knobs.

Since citrus trees have been decimated by canker and lethal greening, Biscayne Prickly Ash has assumed additional prominence because of its value as a host for the larvae of giant swallowtail butterflies.

The tree is undemanding.  It prefers sunny to partly-sunny exposures and well-drained soils.  Once established in the ground, it does not require supplemental watering. Biscayne Prickly Ash is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. containers.

Update on Vegetables Being Grown at Richard Lyons’ Nursery and Other News

Hummingbirds currently abound at the nursery.  They are most frequently seen drinking nectar from the Hong Kong Orchid Trees, China Hats, Fire spikes, Fire bush (native and non-native), Bougainvilleas, and Butterfly Orchid Tree, just to name a few.  We invite you to tour the nursery and see for yourself just how many hummingbirds are here.

Harvesting has begun on such vegetables as Kohlrabi, Beets, Romaine Lettuce, Mesclun Greens(Arugula, mustard, radicchio, endive, leaf lettuce), Radishes, and Cucumbers.  We’ll be harvesting in the near future, Squash, Carrots, Green Beans, Daikon Radishes, Cabbage, and Broccoli.

Feel free to stop on by and walk around the 10 acre property, or have someone give you a tour in a golf cart.

The Allure of Brunfelsia

If you’ve been driving around town in the past month, your gaze might have been diverted by a dazzling plant in full flower. It’s the one covered from top to bottom with 2-in. wide blooms ranging from purple to lavender to white – simultaneously! You’re looking at Brunfelsia grandiflora, commonly called Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow. While this species is very dependable over time, this year’s flowering seems to be especially vigorous. For more information about Brunfelsia, please see Steve Turner’s October 12, 2012 article and photos on this website. And one more thing: Try to keep your eyes on the road.

Observations on a Wacky Autumn

With a 70% chance of rain today, who would believe we are in the dry season? And last week the temperatures dipped into the low 50s in the Redland. If we continue to have cool weather, we might have a strong lychee crop next year. That would be great. Our Jakfruit season here at Richard Lyons’ Nursery is over. It’s wonderful to see so many consumers discovering the largest tree fruit. We had a fruit this year that tipped the scales at 86 lbs! The Jujube trees are loaded with fruit, as are the Star Apple trees. Star Fruit trees are bearing a good crop again this year. Our vegetable and herb garden is doing very nicely; in a few weeks we will be able to harvest beets, tomatoes, Swiss chard, carrots, sugar peas, kohlrabi, radishes, daikon (a large, mild Asian radish), and a large squash known as calabaza. We also have herbs available in 3-in. pots. They include parsley, dill, rosemary, tarragon, oregano, various hot peppers, mint, lavender and others. Lemon grass can be found at Richard Lyons’ Nursery year-round.


Why This Nursery Doesn’t Recommend Citrus or Avocado Trees?

Recently Florida’s Commissioner of Agriculture, Adam Putnam, distributed a story that had been reported on a Tampa-area television station. It quoted some fairly astonishing statistics regarding citrus production in Florida: The most recent growing season yielded 104 million boxes of oranges. Only 11 years ago, 243 million boxes were picked! Some of the difference was due to hurricanes that strafed the state in mid-decade, but the bulk of the staggering loss resulted from citrus greening, a disease discovered in Florida in 2005. Greening ruins the appearance and taste of citrus fruit, and ultimately kills trees within a few seasons. A reliable cure is, at best, still several years away. It is a much greater threat than citrus canker.

To make matters worse, most varieties of citrus are not grown on the rootstock necessary for success in the soils of southern Florida. So right now Richard Lyons’ Nursery firmly recommends that homeowners interested in fruit trees buy something other than citrus.

Avocados also face a dicey future in our region. A tiny insect, the Redbay Ambrosia Beetle, carries a fungus, commonly known as Laurel Wilt, that has been spreading south from Georgia since 2002. In March 2012 the disease was detected in the northernmost avocado groves of southern Florida. The earliest observable effect of Laurel Wilt is dieback of leaves, stems and limbs, but all infested trees eventually die. Until a reliable, affordable treatment to prevent Laurel Wilt is developed, Richard Lyons Nursery will not sell avocado trees.