This Week’s Special

September 11, through September 25th, 2016

15 gal. 10′ tall Rainbow Eucalyptus Trees (Eucalyptus deglupta) on sale for $55.00

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have Jackfruit and Longans

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.

Longan Fruit is also still available at the nursery.

The Valuable Candlenut Tree

Once in a while we come across a plant species whose exact origin is unknown. A well-known example is the Coconut Palm, because its fruit, or seednut, is capable of both floating in ocean water and resisting salt’s toxic effects, allowing it to spread to many tropical and subtropical locales. But in most other cases a plant’s origin is unknown because humans living long ago found the species so valuable that they started to grow it wherever climate and soils permitted. The Candlenut Tree is such a plant, and it has been described as “one of the world’s great domesticated multipurpose trees.”

The Candlenut Tree (Aleurites moluccana) is almost certainly native to Southeast Asia and western Polynesia, but it proved so useful to humans that they quickly distributed it to far-flung lands as maritime traffic increased. One of its shorter migrations was to Hawaii, where the island chain’s early Polynesian settlers probably introduced it. Today the Kukui, as it is known, is the state tree of Hawaii.

Aleurites moluccana grows to about 80 ft. in the moist lowland forests of Hawaii, where it has become naturalized, but in southern Florida it normally matures to no more than half that size. Its large fuzzy leaves are usually trilobed, but occasionally five-lobed. The tree’s small, fragrant, white-green flowers are held in clusters, and its fruit consists of a hard elliptical shell that commonly contains two or three seeds.

The Candlenut, also known as Indian Walnut and Varnish Tree, has multiple uses. Its fruit shells have been incorporated in costume jewelry. In Hawaii, its oil-rich seeds traditionally were, after shelling and roasting, strung together on the midrib of a coconut palm leaf to create a candle known as a kalikukui. Multiple kalikukuis would sometimes be assembled into torches. Oil extracted from the seeds has been used in paints and varnishes, and oil cakes have served as cattle food and fertilizer. The oil can also be applied to wood to protect it much like linseed oil. Its quality is good enough to be used even in high-performance racecars. In addition, the Candlenut has medicinal qualities whose applications vary from place to place in the countries where it has been introduced.

This very interesting tree is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 7-gal. containers.

Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata)

Baobab Tree (Adansonia digitata)

As you know, we are surrounded by weird things. In your case, at this very moment the closest weird thing is probably your neighbor’s teenage son, who thinks he is the next Justin Bieber, but more closely resembles an offkey cyclops.

In the plant world, one of the weirder things is the Baobab tree, but, unlike your neighbor’s kid, the Baobab has a future, quite possibly in your yard.

The scientific name for Baobab is Adansonia. It is named for Michel Adanson, a French explorer and naturalist who as a 21-year-old in 1749 was distracted by a very striking tree on an island in Senegal while on a hunt for antelope. The tree, now known as Adansonia digitata, had an enormous swollen trunk and seemed to have been turned on end. In fact, one of its common names is the Upside Down Tree, a reflection on the fact that its crown, when bare, resembles a gnarly collection of roots. David Livingstone — that David Livingstone, we presume — called it a “carrot planted upside down.”

Following centuries of confusion and debate, there is now general agreement among botanists that the genus Adansonia comprises eight species which range over some 10,000 miles from western Africa to Madagascar to the Arabian Peninsula to northwestern Australia (where they are known as Boabs). Continental drift following the breakup of Gondwana used to be credited for the broad range of Adansonia, but a more recent theory holds that the buoyant seedpods distributed Baobabs to western Australia and eastern Africa by sea from Madagascar. What is common to all the species is their trunk girth, an adaptation to arid environments that allows the plant to store large quantities of water. Baobabs have long served as living reservoirs for humans, particularly nomadic tribes.

Revered across their range, Baobabs have a number of valuable uses aside from their role as a source of water. Their leaves are used to make soup or are eaten as a spinach-like or asparagus-like vegetable or dry condiment. The white pulp found inside seed pods makes a pleasant drink when mixed with water, and the same pulp is used to treat malaria. The seeds themselves are edible in several forms. The bark of the tree can be pounded into fiber to make clothing, fishing nets and rope.  And in addition to their utilitarian assets, the Adansonia species produce small to large, sweet-smelling flowers.

The trees have no growth rings, but at least by reputation they are extremely long-lived. One of the qualities that aids longevity is the ability to regrow bark when it is damaged, either through accidental injury or by being intentionally stripped for the fiber. Some older specimens have developed such large, hollow trunks that they have been used as prisons or, more accurately, lockups for criminals being transported to more traditional accommodations.

The Baobab is not a succulent. Young plants in particular do not respond well to drought. Rather, the genus is simply highly adapted to areas of low rainfall. That fact helps explain why Adansonia is quite capable of handling the moist climate of southern Florida if planted on a well-drained site.

On reflection, ‘weird’ is not the fairest descriptor for the noble Baobab. ‘Remarkable’ might be the best term. In fact, one admirer has incorporated that very view into an entire book about the genus.  You might want to take a look at Thomas Pakenham’s “The Remarkable Baobab.”

Adansonia digitata is a proven quality performer in the landscape of southern Florida, and its slow growth rate will not put this interesting tree out of scale to residential properties. Richard Lyons’ Nursery has it available in 15-gal. containers, at about 12 ft. in height. And it might well help you forget about the kid next door.

Adansonia digitata (Baobab Tree)

Adansonia digitata (Baobab Tree)

Adansonia digitata (Baobab Tree)

Adansonia digitata (Baobab Tree)

Adansonia digitata (Baobab Tree)

Golden Dewdrops (Duranta erecta f/k/a Duranta repens)

If you’re not already familiar with Duranta erecta, now is a good time to get acquainted with this very attractive New World flowering species. Like a lot of plants, it comes with its own little bag of mysteries: Its current specific epithet, erecta, means upright.  Yet an older epithet, repens, means creeping. That sounds like an oxymoron, but the explanation lies in the variability of the species: Individuals can sprawl and droop, with trailing branches, giving the impression of creeping. The other mystery concerns the native range of D. erecta. Some observers have argued that the species occurs naturally as far north as the imaginary line — minus a few gaps — from Florida to California. But more likely its historical native range extends from Brazil northward to the Caribbean and northwestward to Mexico; any presence across the Rio Grande is the result of introduction.

What practically everyone can agree on is that this species lives up to its common name — Golden Dewdrops. The plant produces profuse numbers of small round yellow or yellow-orange berries that look for all the world like a viscous dew. But there is an additional bonus with D. erecta. Not only does the species bear mildly fragrant, long-lasting tight clusters of tubular pale blue to lavender flowers, but new flowers often appear as fruit ripens, and the combination of colors is quite striking.

As a further benefit, D. erecta flowers also attract hummingbirds and butterflies. The fruits of this species are a food source for birds, but are toxic to humans, so the Golden Dewdrops should not be planted where small children play.

Native mostly to dry coastal areas, the Golden Dewdrops is not particularly demanding about soil or moisture conditions when planted out, so long as drainage is good. However, a richer, deeper soil will yield a more vigorous plant. It does best in full sun, but can tolerate light shade. The species usually matures under 10 ft. high, and perhaps just as broad, but occasionally a specimen may become a small tree up to 20 ft. tall. Leaves are light green, and the crown contains many fine branches which may bear thorns. Springtime pruning is appropriate to remove dead wood and manage shape.

D. erecta has multiple applications. It can be planted as a specimen shrub/tree or as a low screen or even as a mixed hedge with other butterfly or hummingbird attractants. It can also be espaliered against a wall or grown in a decorative container on a patio or other paved surface.

The Golden Dewdrops is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. containers.

Duranta erecta (Golden Dewdrops)

Duranta erecta (Golden Dewdrops)

Duranta erecta (Golden Dewdrops)

Duranta erecta (Golden Dewdrops)

Duranta erecta (Golden Dewdrops)

Duranta erecta (Golden Dewdrops)

Firebush (Hamelia patens)

No less a publication than Southern Living magazine has long recommended our native Firebush, Hamelia patens, to its readership. And it’s no wonder. The species has many endearing qualities.

First, if not foremost, it’s rather cold-tolerant. The Florida Native Plant Society regards it as suitable for planting through Zone 9a, whose northern limit is along a line from the Georgia border at the Atlantic coast to roughly Panama City at the Gulf Coast. However, Firebush can survive in the ground well north of there. It will freeze back in the winter, but regrow from the roots in the spring, particularly if mulched with fallen leaves. North of Zone 9a, the species is quite popular as a fast-growing, colorful annual.

H. patens is also remarkably amenable to various soil types, from the alkaline rockland of southern Florida to the deep acidic soils of the temperate South. It flowers best in full sun, but performs well even in some shade. The species is reasonably drought-tolerant, but can handle plenty of water, so long as good drainage is guaranteed.  Once established, maintenance is quite easy; cutting it back periodically will promote compactness and encourage blooming. And it doesn’t even require much fertilizer!

Firebush has a huge native range, from north central Florida and Bermuda in the north through the Caribbean, Mexico, Central America, and into Paraguay in the south. In southern Florida it is a semi-woody evergreen shrub or small tree that reaches about 12 ft. high. Its leaves are oval to elliptical, up to 6 in. long, featuring reddish veins and leafstems. It produces clusters of ¾-in. red-orange or scarlet tubular flowers throughout the year. Its berries are also attractive, developing through a range of colors from green to yellow to red to glossy black.

In the ground, Hamelia can be used as a solid hedge or can be mixed with other materials, but it can also be featured to great advantage as a stand-alone specimen. It is quite popular in hummingbird and butterfly gardens. In colder locations that experience a distinct winter, Firebush makes an outstanding container plant that can be brought indoors and kept in a bright location until the return of warm weather.

H. patens also possesses some medicinal qualities. Indigenous peoples found that stem and leaf extracts could be used to ameliorate dermatological problems, including sores, rashes and fungus. Those ethnobotanical applications have been bolstered by modern studies that isolated chemicals possessing antibacterial and antifungal properties. Other Firebush extracts have been shown in animal studies to contain hypothermic, analgesic and diuretic qualities.

H. patens is available at the nursery in 3-gal. containers.

Hamelia patens (Firebush)

Hamelia patens (Firebush)

Hamelia patens (Firebush)

Phoebis sennae on Hamelia patens (Cloudless Sulphur Butterfly on Firebush)

Hamelia patens (Firebush)

Heliconius charitonius on Hamelia patens (Zebra Longwing Butterfly on Firebush)