The palm from . . . where?

To say that Dypsis cabadae has taken a long, tortuous path to discovery would be a major understatement. Superficially, it appeared that the species was first found in the early 1950s in the garden of a Dr. Cabada near Cienfuegos, Cuba, but it could not be identified. After Cabada’s death, the director of Harvard University’s nearby Atkins Garden took seed from the doctor’s fruiting plant to propagate. Soon it was observed by botanist Dr. Harold E. Moore, Jr., on a visit from his home base, Cornell University. Moore immediately knew that Cabada’s mystery palm could not have been a New World species; it bore obvious signs of belonging to the genus Chrysalidocarpus, whose species are native only to Madagascar and some small neighboring islands. Moore waited 10 years, until 1962, to name the species Chrysalidocarpus cabadae, yet it was still unknown in its putative homeland. Meanwhile, the species was introduced into southern Florida, and in 1987 was reclassified as Dypsis cabadae. Even then, its origin remained a question mark. Only in the past 10 years has a native stand been found in the Comoros, an island nation lying between northwestern Madagascar and Mozambique. Dypsis cabadae is a stunning, water-loving species, far surpassing its cousin, the innacurately-dubbed Areca Palm, in ornamental appeal. Its bamboo-like stems are dark green overlain by white rings that mark where leaves were once attached. In southern Florida it reaches 30-40 ft. over time and can be grown in exposures from sunny to lightly-shaded. This beautiful Old World species can be found at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. containers.

Another Role for Stoppers

We last dealt with the trees known as stoppers in an article published on the Richard Lyons’ Nursery website on March 2, 2013. Legend has it that these species got that common name because their constituents were used in concoctions to stop, er, uh, intestinal problems. An alternate, more pleasant explanation is that these plants could be used to create a thicket capable of stopping intruders.

Just as there is an alternative explanation for the plants’ name, there is an alternative use for them in the landscape. The popular stoppers include Redberry Stopper (Eugenia confusa), Red Stopper (Eugenia rhombea), White Stopper (Eugenia axillaris), and Simpson’s Stopper (Myrcianthes fragrans). Each in its normal configuration makes a very attractive small tree, an ornamental accent that will not grow out of scale to even small properties. But stoppers can also be managed as a handsome hedge. Probably the easiest way to maintain stoppers as hedge material is simply to let them grow free-form until the desired height is reached and then trim as needed to maintain that height.

The subjective view here at the nursery is that Simpson’s Stopper may be the best of the four species as a hedge, because it will continue to flower and attract butterflies and birds.

Spring Makes a Big-Time Entrance

Today may be the official first day of spring, but, in truth, the season popped out early this year, and in no small way. Plants that have lain dormant during the winter months have begun to push new leaves. We’ve even seeing new weeds which weren’t here during the winter. (Who says there’s no winter in southern Florida? Just because we don’t have snow….) Both the white and blue forms of Queen’s Wreath (Petrea volubilis) have been putting on a spectacular show the last few weeks. On the other hand, vegetable crops are coming to an end, but we still have kohlrabi, celery, Malabar spinach, and Swiss chard. I invite everyone to come down and walk the grounds or ride around in a golf cart and enjoy the springtime show.


Plants in Bloom Around The Nursery

The last couple of weeks have brought more normal daytime and nighttime temperatures back to South Florida, along with some substantial rainfall.  This has brought spring to the region, and with it, many plants have started to come out of their winter dormancy.  Looking around the nursery, the Cochlospermum vitifolium(Buttercup Tree), Petrea volubilis var. albiflora (White Queen’s Wreath Vine), and Tabebuia chrysotricha (Yellow Trumpet Tree) are all blooming.  We are also still harvesting vegetables which we grew this winter, such as tomatoes, kohlrabi, celery, onions, and calabaza or West Indian Pumpkin, a large winter squash (Cucurbita moschata), to name a few.  As always, visitors are welcome to visit and stroll around the 10 acre nursery to see what we have to offer.




Ready for Mangos?, Part VI

This installment concludes our survey of mango cultivars available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery. This year’s mango crop in southern Florida continues to show great potential. There has been no cold outbreak serious enough to damage either flowers or pollinators, and we are well beyond the statistical ‘dead of winter.’ March winds have started a little early, but the fruit on most trees is still too small to be blown off. Growers shouldn’t be surprised when strong winds do cause fruit drop, but this year the trees have flowered so prolifically that those inevitable losses will not diminish the yield on most trees in any meaningful way.

Rapoza This Hawaiian cultivar produces a vigorous midsize to large tree with a rounded canopy, and it holds up well in humid climates. Not only is the fruit fairly large, 14-28 oz., but the seed is small, so the fiberless, juicy flesh takes up over 85% of the capacity of the fruit. The mango is also anthracnose-resistant. Fruit ripens in July.

Rosigold Originating in Southeast Asia, Rosigold is among the earliest cultivars to ripen — from mid-March to June — and possesses fiberless, aromatic and sweet fruit that averages about 11 oz. Moreover, the tree is small, maturing at 15 ft. and capable of being maintained at 8 ft. without jeopardizing productivity.

S.T. Maui Here is another desirable Hawaiian cultivar which, like Rapoza, is well-suited to humid climates. The tree is a medium to large grower. Its roundish, attractively-colored, fiberless fruit is juicy and sweet-tasting. An admirer in southern Florida has referred to it as a ‘top tier mango’ of ‘superb’ eating quality. Ripening occurs in early summer.

San Felipe If you’re looking for a mango that grows vigorously and produces consistently, then San Felipe may be the one for you. Originating in western Cuba, this Haden-like cultivar reaches medium to large size and yields a good-looking, spicy, sweet fruit that matures in the 14-32 oz. range. Because ripening occurs early in the rainy season, this mango’s disease resistance is enhanced.

Tommy Atkins This Florida-bred cultivar, descended from Haden seeds planted in Broward County in the early 1920s, is known for its long shelf life, and it is the most widely-grown commercial mango in the New World. The tree grows to a large size and produces a very attractive, disease-resistant fruit that weighs in at just over 16 oz. on average. Ripening time is June and July.

Valencia Pride This is another in the long line of Florida cultivars developed from the Haden mango, and is one of the best-tasting of the late-season varieties. The vigorous tree can reach 50 ft., with a spreading, open canopy. It produces a strikingly-colored, S-shaped fruit noted for its aroma, smoothness and sweet taste. Mature weight is in the 21-32 oz. range, and ripening occurs from July to August.