From Under the Jakfruit Tree

This week we harvested two large bunches of  bananas, one is called ‘burro’ used primarily for cooking and the other for eating out of hand. We have many more available for  sale. Each bunch had more than 10 hands, very nice.  Both plants and fruit are available for sale.

Since our South Florida soil is so very nutrient poor we plant our banana pants in deep mounds of old decayed mulch. This medium is extremely nutrient rich. We find it is not necessary to add additional fertilizer, just provide water.  No pesticides or fungicides are required.


The sweet almond bushes, Aloysia virgata, are intoxicating.  What a delightful aroma.  The scent can be enjoyed from several feet away.  This bush blooms year round and is extremely maintenance free.

If you enjoy fragrance, stop by and enjoy the strong vanilla scent of the Ceiba schottii tree (Vanilla Kapok).  Our specimen tree is currently in bloom and it blooms for many months out of the year.

That is all for today, from ‘Under the Jakfruit tree‘. 

Under The Jakfruit Tree



Here at Richard Lyons Nursery we are at the beginning of the dry season. The weeds are different from the wet season and the dry season fruits are nearing harvest. We have already picked some jujube and sapodilla. Many more are on the way. All the fresh fruit and fruit trees are available for purchase six days a week. We are closed only on Thursdays.

The Brazilian Red Cloak is stunning with its one foot plus plumes of red flowers.

Winter vegetables are growing in the surrounding farms. The humidity is lower and the night temperatures are mostly in the 70s. I saw my first hummingbird of the season sipping nectar from the red firespike plant. More will be here shortly for our winter/dry season. If you plant the right nectar plants, they will come to your yard too.

From under the jackfruit tree.


Caricature Plant (Graptophyllum pictum)

If you’re looking for a colorful variegated shrub, you would do well to consider the Caricature Plant. Native to southeast Asia, most likely New Guinea, the plant features glossy, variegated leaves which display a splash of pink/peach coloration in the center. Richard Lyons’ Nursery carries two foliar color forms, one with a green background and one with a brownish background. The plants produce red or red-purple tubular flowers.

G. pictum will mature to a height of 6-9 ft. in our region. It can be made bushier by pinching out new growth, but the plant will flower more prolifically the less it is pruned. This species performs best in a moist, well-drained soil, particularly if organic matter is worked in. It prefers sunny to partly-shaded exposures.

The Caricature Plant is valued in the folk medicine of Indonesia, where it is used to treat a variety of problems, including rheumatism, urinary infections, constipation, dermatitis, and wounds. It also appears to have some promise in the broader medical community. One study confirmed that an extract from the leaves of the plant has anti-inflammatory properties, and another study found that a different extract appeared to alleviate symptoms of diabetes. Of course, as with a lot of desirable substances, too much can produce toxic effects.

Richard Lyons’ Nursery carries G. pictum in 3-gal. containers.

The Many Charms of Guava

If your only familiarity with guava fruit is its use as a jelly, you need to put that out of your mind. At least that’s the advice of Brooks Tropicals, which recently published suggestions for better ways to appreciate the fruit. Here are some of the highlights:
• Add sliced guava to a meal by including it in a fruit or green salad.
• Make a sauce to brush on an entrée or vegetable.
• Use on bread by blending it into the batter or spreading it on.
• Incorporate guava in a dessert.
• Make a guava dip for shrimp cocktail.
• Eat the small seeds, which contain many of the nutrients found in the fruit. They are small enough to leave in a smoothie.
• Consumers who don’t want the seeds can just scoop them out of the center of a fruit sliced in half. And poaching for 10 minutes makes seeds just pop out.
• Guava should be ripened at room temperature. The fruit is ready when it’s slightly soft to the touch.
• The fruit is a good source of Vitamins A and C, as well as fiber. And guavas contain more potassium than bananas.
• The lycopene which is responsible for the fruit’s red color is a significant antioxidant.
For more detail about guava, including recipes, please see
Richard Lyons’ Nursery stocks guava plants in 3-gal. containers.

Autograph Tree or Pitch Apple (Clusia rosea)

In 1898, the United States became embroiled in the Spanish-American War. President William McKinley, eager to assess the relative strengths of the Spanish forces and Cuban insurgents, wanted to send a message to General Calixto Garcia, who was somewhere in the mountains of eastern Cuba. Col. Arthur Wagner, head of the Bureau of Military Intelligence, recommended a lieutenant named Andrew S. Rowan for the task. Rowan was soon dispatched by ship with the message, and, following a quick, harrowing trip through Jamaica and the eastern end of Cuba, he reached Gen. Garcia with the letter. Rowan returned to Washington with invaluable intelligence disclosed by Garcia that enabled the U.S. to end the conflict in just 10 weeks.

Legend has it that the famed Message to Garcia was scratched onto a leaf of a tree called Clusia rosea. (One would have thought that by 1898 the president of the United States might be writing letters on paper instead of tree leaves, but I digress.) Whether the account is true or not, C. rosea is a very interesting, desirable plant for subtropical gardens. Native to southern Florida, the Bahamas, and into the Caribbean, this relative of mangosteen reaches 25-50 ft. It produces a fairly stout trunk and features a dense canopy of leathery, dark green, paddle-shaped leaves. Messages can, in fact, be written on Clusia leaves; the sap exuded through scraped surfaces is visible for the life of the leaf. That’s why the best-known common name for this plant is Autograph Tree. Another name is Pitch Apple, a reference to the one-time practice of caulking the seams of boats with the resinous black substance found in seed pods.

The 2-3 in. white-to-pink summertime flowers of C. rosea give way to woody pods, or capsules, that split open as they turn brown, revealing black seeds wrapped in soft red flesh. The fruit attracts birds, along with squirrels and other mammals. As an ornamental plant, the Autograph Tree has many appealing attributes—tolerance to drought, saltwater, and variable light conditions, as well as strong resistance to disease and insects. Grown as a tree, there are few maintenance demands, although occasional trimming of aerial roots helps manage size. C. rosea grows at a moderate rate and may be pruned from multiple stems into a single trunk to transform it into a standard. That trait is particularly valuable to its use as a street tree. On the other hand, left as a multi-stemmed shrub, it makes a wonderful screening material, with the following caveat:

We at Richard Lyons’ Nursery believe that the use of C. rosea as a shrub, while very satisfying in the short term, leads to frustration over time. That’s because this species always wants to be a tree. The repetitive pruning necessary to maintain Clusia as a shrub ultimately leads to a woody, unleafy plant. No less an authority than Julia Morton, longtime professor of biology at the University of Miami, weighed in on this matter thirty years ago in the Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society. In an article titled “Pity the Pitch Apple – Treat It as a Spreading Tree,” she contended that “This handsome tree…is a prime example of misuse in Florida landscaping. Where do we see it in South Florida? Usually placed as though it were a shrub in foundation plantings, in pots on terraces, or, if in the ground, in small patios and very close to houses or other buildings….The result, in time, is obvious unsuitability for the location…and increasing ugliness….It’s time for the landscaper and the client to understand the pitch apple and use it wisely and artistically according to its merits.”

With those thoughts in mind, this attractive tree is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. containers. We have a quartet of species: C. rosea variegatawhose leaves feature green and yellow marbling; C. lanceolata, with a beautiful small white flower with a red center; C. orthoneura, with a small pinkish red flower; and C. guttifera ‘Nana’, a small-leafed species excellent for bonsai culture.  This name has been around a long time, but this Clusia is probably C. fluminensis ‘Pedra Azul’.