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.
This weeks featured plants are both in the Genus Rondeletia, in the family Rubiaceae (The Coffee Family). Rondeletia leucophylla (Bush Pentas) and Rondeletia odorata (Panama Rose), with R. leucophylla the more common of the two. The Genus was named for the French physician, Guillaume Rondelet (1507-1566), who had a particular interest in botany. Both of these plants are shrubs which can attain a height of 4-5 feet. R. leucophlla is native to Mexico and blooms year round in S. FL. with clusters of pink flowers. R. odorata is native to Cuba and Panama, with clusters of orange flowers that have yellow centers. Both of these shrubs are excellent nectar sources for all of our native butterflies, so they would be excellent additions to any butterfly garden.
Richard Lyons Nursery currently has both of these plants in stock.
Queen’s Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia speciosa) is a deciduous subtropical tree, USDA hardiness zone 10B-11, closely related to the more cold tolerant Lagerstroemia indica. However, Queen’s Crape Myrtle has a single trunk, much larger crown spread, larger leaves, and larger flowers varying in color from pink to purple, as opposed to the many flower colors of L. indica. It attains a height of 25-30′ in South Florida, with a profusion of blooms from mid-May to June, followed by woody rounded capsules which split open revealing many seeds, which small song birds feed upon.
The common name, ‘Crape or Crepe’, is probably due to the crinkled flowers resembling delicate crepe paper, and ‘myrtle’ because the peeling bark of L indica resembles the trunk of trees in the myrtle family. The genus Lagerstroemia is named for the Swedish merchant, Magnus von Lagerstrom, who supplied Carolus Linnaeus with plants he collected.
The tree is native to SE Asia, and is called Banaba in the Philippines. The flowers and leaves are used to make an herbal tea, as they contain corrosolic acid, a chemical which has an insulin like effect of lowering glucose levels in the body.
Richard Lyons’ Nursery has a very large pink flowering variety of Queen’s Crape Myrtle which is much showier than most of the varieties seen in the nursery trade. Most varieties sold in S. FL. tend to be more purple or lavender than pink, and much smaller sized flower.
Just a quick note on ornamental Passion Vines and their ornate flowers compared to the insignificant flowers of our native corkystem Passion Vine. Whether you are growing these vines for their beauty, or food for three of our local butterflies, I hope you do enjoy them. Regardless, you will find that the Gulf Fritillary Butterfly (Agraulis vanilla) will lay eggs on the non-native showy Passion Vines as well as the native Corkystem Passion Vine (Passiflora suberosa). It is the Zebra Longwing Butterfly (Heliconius charitonia) and the Orange Julia Butterfly (Dryas iulia) that are a little more discerning in their choice of a host plant. These two butterflies will only lay eggs on the native Corkystem Passion Vine (Passiflora suberosa).
Richard Lyons Nursery has a nice selection of ornamental Passion Vines and of course the native Corkystem Passion vine.
Once again I would like to remind everyone about wanting to plant citrus trees.
My thoughts on the subject are: Do Not.
All legally sold citrus trees in Florida must be grown in Northern Florida under quarantine. In addition, the disease called citrus greening is rampant throughout the state. It is not seen with the naked eye until the disease has progressed. THERE IS NO CURE AND NO KNOWN WAY TO PREVENT IT. The disease is spread by the Asian citrus psyllid (a very tiny insect), whose host plant is orange jasmine (Murraya paniculata). This plant was a very popular ornamental in the nursery industry, so it was widely planted throughout Florida. This enabled the insect to spread rapidly throughout the state and infect citrus trees along the way. At the moment the only way to control the disease is to eradicate the psyllid, and this has proven very expensive and ineffective.
Another reason not to plant citrus is the trees are grafted on a root stock not compatible with our alkaline soil. This presents a problem in the way the fruit may taste. The fruit may be bitter, pithy and most undesirable.
Finally, as if the other two reasons weren’t enough, a more familiar disease is still around which most South Floridians are familiar with, Citrus Canker.
If interested more can be read about these problems on the IFAS WEBSITE.