Ready for Mangos?, Part II

In the food world, we’re crazy about things that taste good, but at the same time do us harm. However, mangos are an exception to that rule, because they are not only delicious, but also beneficial to health. Significant amounts of Vitamin A, Vitamin B-6, Vitamin C, copper, iron, folate, potassium and fiber are produced in the fruit, and there is evidence that mangos contain multiple antioxidants that protect against colon, breast, leukemia and prostate cancers. Eating mangos is also reputed to cleanse the skin, boost digestion, enhance concentration and memory, and, ahem, increase virility.

With so many attributes, the next step is to determine which mango cultivars might best suit your needs. Here are some thumbnail descriptions of the trees carried by Richard Lyons’ Nursery:

Alphonso  This highly-aromatic and intensely sweet mango features a smooth, fiberless texture and is ranked among the best Indian dessert mangos.  It can be eaten out of hand. Unlike many Indian cultivars, Alphonso can handle a rainy, humid climate like ours. Ripening runs from late June into July, and mature fruit weighs in at 8-12 oz.

Baptiste  This cultivar is a selection from Haiti, where it is grown commercially. Blessed with minimal fiber, it has a sweet, mild flavor. Because the firm fruit keeps its shape when cut up, it is popular both for cooking and in fruit salads. Old trees of this cultivar in India are reputed to be very heavy bearers. The fruit weighs 8-16 oz.

Beverly  Ripening in the July-August period, this Florida-bred mango is fiberless, firm and aromatic. The bland color of the flesh is outweighed by its great taste; Beverly was a curator’s choice at the Fairchild Mango Festival for two straight years. The tree’s spreading growth habit makes it easy to keep under 20 ft. Mature fruit weighs in from 16-48 oz.

Bombay  A cultivar derived in Jamaica from an Indian mango, Bombay is famed for its ability to be eaten out of hand, so easy is it to separate the flesh from the seed. The deep orange fruit is fiberless, rich and spicy, key traits for a great dessert mango.  The tree has a tall, open growth habit. Fruit ripens from June into July and weighs in at 12-14 oz.

Carrie  This Florida cultivar boasts a vigorous, but compact growth habit that makes it desirable for smaller yards. It is characterized by having wider leaves than most other cultivars. Carrie has good disease resistance and is not otherwise demanding. The fiberless fruit has excellent flavor and a soft texture. It ripens from June into July and usually weighs under 16 oz.

Cogshall  If you are a condo dweller, this Florida-bred cultivar may be just the thing for you.  Whether container-grown on a balcony or planted in the ground, it can be kept small and still produce a substantial crop. The skin is attractive, and the fruit is aromatic, soft, fiberless, and spicy. Ripening occurs steadily from mid-June though July, and fruits weigh about 16 oz. apiece.

East Indian  Deep orange flesh characterizes this juicy cultivar, which has been popular in the markets of Jamaica and other Caribbean islands for a long time. In addition to a spicy, aromatic, rich flavor, it also furnishes hints of coconut; not surprisingly, it has become a much-favored juice mango despite the presence of some fiber. Fruit ripens in the 12-20 oz. range.

Outlook Continues to Worsen for Florida Citrus

On November 14, 2014, Richard Lyons’ Nursery posted an article on its website entitled, “Why This Nursery Doesn’t Recommend Citrus or Avocado Trees.” It reported that citrus greening disease was primarily responsible last year for the state’s poor orange production, 104 million boxes.

Unfortunately, new information shows that things are getting even worse. On January 12 the U.S. Department of Agriculture revised its 2014-15 production forecast down 5% just from December. The agency now predicts that Florida’s yield will fall a million boxes short of last year’s record low.

In a January 13 memorandum, Adam Putnam, Commissioner of the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, reported that federal, state and commercial growers have already allocated over $200 million to combat citrus greening. This year Putnam has requested $18 million from the Florida Legislature to continue research, prevent disease spread, and replant lost trees.

And, sadly, laurel wilt disease, the parallel, though unrelated, threat to avocados, also continues unabated. This insect-spread pathogen threatens the survival of the avocado industry in Florida and California.

Ready for Mangos?

Okay, we all know that it’s a little too soon to be plucking nice, ripe mangos from your trees, but it is true that early-maturing cultivars have already been in flower for a few weeks and, barring damaging frost as winter rolls along, we might be able to start harvesting the delicious, juicy fruits sometime in May.

It’s not too soon, however, to plant mango trees in your yard to promote good root systems and enhance chances of flowering as early as next year.  Richard Lyons’ Nursery has a nice selection of mango cultivars – some three dozen – that can enable you to stretch fruit production throughout the season.  But before getting into specifics about the cultivars we offer, it’s good to take a brief look into the background of this wonderful food. The Indian Mango, Mangifera indica, belongs to an interesting family, the Anacardiaceae, which includes cashews, pistachios, and poison ivy.  Over the past 4,000 years, the mango has spread from its Asian origins to cultivation in tropical, and even subtropical, locales around the world; it now occupies a position among the most popular fruits on the planet.  Its first recorded introduction into Florida was at Cape Sable in 1833.  And while that’s a late appearance along the timeline of the mango’s expansion into cultivation, it was still a dozen years before Florida was admitted to the union.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) estimates that about 2,000 acres, comprising 200,000 trees, are involved in the commercial production of mangos in Florida.  While the state’s output is dwarfed by that of India, China, Thailand, and at least 13 other countries, Florida’s groves – and even back yards – have been responsible for the development of important cultivars which have improved taste and reduced the presence of annoying stringy fibers in the fruit. Cultivars developed in Florida have often emphasized skin coloration – reds, oranges and yellows – not because of any connection to taste and nutrition, but simply to improve marketability by mimicking the appearance of peaches on grocery shelves.  Another goal of mango breeding in Florida has been to stretch out the fruiting season, making mangos of one sort or another available from May through September.

Because many mango cultivars can grow tall, for efficient harvesting they should be kept within the 12-15 ft. range.  Pruning should be done as soon as possible after fruiting has finished.  In addition to reining in height, the goal of good pruning is to enhance fruit production by opening up the interior of the tree to light and encouraging lateral, rather than upright, growth.  For greater detail on pruning mangos, please contact the extension (IFAS) office in your county.

As this series continues, we will present thumbnail descriptions of the mango cultivars offered at Richard Lyons’ Nursery.

The Colorful Copperleaf Shrubs

In many parts of the United States, the Copperleaf is a popular summertime landscaping element, a heat-loving annual bedding plant that disintegrates with the onset of winter conditions.  But it’s really a perennial evergreen shrub, and we in southern Florida are fortunate to be able to grow it inground or in containers year-round, allowing it to achieve dimensions unknown north of the subtropics.   Copperleaf is certainly an apt name for most members of the genus Acalypha.  When grown in full sun, leaves of those cultivars achieve various hues of red, as if they are sheets of copper beginning to oxidize.

Acalypha wilkesiana is probably the variety most people first think of when the genus is mentioned.  The leaves are 5-8 in. long, with serrated margins. The plant, if left to its own devices, can reach 10 ft. high by 10 ft. broad.  That makes it useful as a screening material.  But this variety is also amenable to being pruned hard if greater compactness is a goal.  Richard Lyons’ Nursery carries one of the more unusual Acalypha wilkesiana cultivars, ‘Java White.’  Instead of the standard red coloration, it has multiple hues — white, light yellow, chartreuse, and green.

Another cultivar, A. wilkesiana ‘Fire Dragon’, is also recommended. It differs from the original form in a couple of ways:  The overall size is smaller, and the leaves are narrower, with a pronounced pink accent around the margins.  Some say the foliage reminds them of Japanese Maple.

A.wilkesiana ‘Inferno’ and ‘Firestorm’ are similar to one another in that they both feature shorter stature and narrower leaves than the standard A. wilkesiana. However, ‘Inferno’ hues are in the orange-yellow-red range, while those of ‘Firestorm’ lean more toward oranges and browns.

While all the Copperleaf varieties attain their best color when planted in full sun, they can also tolerate some filtered light.  They like ample soil moisture, but also good drainage.  These popular Acalyphas are available at the nursery in 1-gal. and 3-gal. containers.

The Clumping Ptychospermas

Of the palms suitable to cultivation in southern Florida, the genus Ptychosperma is among the most successful.  Its 30 or so species are Asian in origin, native mostly to New Guinea and Australia.  Though they’re primarily rain forest species, some, such as the ubiquitous Solitaire Palm (Ptychosperma elegans), have proven successful in sunny exposures.  A few species are single-stemmed, but the majority are clumping, or clustering.

Richard Lyons’ Nursery raises clustering Ptychospermas because of their ornamental appeal and functional value.  Our multi-stemmed species bear highly-attractive leaflet tips that appear to have been uniformly bitten off by mysterious forest fauna.  At maturity the trees will reach 30 ft. or more.

These palms are excellent additions to wooded properties on which the owner desires to emulate a tropical rain forest.  Not only are they at home in shaded positions, but as they age and outgrow some of the other forest trees, they can adapt to brighter light.

Clumping Ptychospermas are especially recommended for planting next to multi-story buildings.  Not only do these palms grow tall, but their upright habit allows them to be installed in rather narrow spaces.  Where the sprawling habit of Phoenix reclinata would be overwhelming, the narrow profile of clustering Ptychospermas provides a perfect alternative.

Visit Richard Lyons’ Nursery for a closeup look at the versatile clumping Ptychospermas.  We stock them in 15-gal. containers.