Under The Jakfruit Tree

Today’s topic brings me to 3 native Lantana species. Lantana is a genus of perennial flowering plants in the Verbenaceae family (Verbena Family). The first native lantana is Lantana depressa var. depressa (Pineland Lantana). This plant grows in the Pine Rocklands habitat which has been greatly reduced in area over the years due to development. It is officially listed as endangered and only grows in Miami-Dade County along with another species of Lantana, Lantana canescens (Hammock Shrubverbena). Finally, a third native species, Lantana involucrata (Buttonsage), occurs in 16 coastal counties, including the Florida Keys to Key West. This species is more upright and can attain a height of 6-7 feet. All three of these species are excellent nectar sources for our local butterflies and are currently in stock at Richard Lyons Nursery.

Under The Jakfruit Tree

Today’s topic is about three members of the Euphorbiaceae Family (The Spurge Family). Euphorbia is the biggest genus in this family, but today focuses on the little known Cnidoscolus genus and the better known Jatropha genus.

First let’s focus on Cnidoscolus aconitifolius, the Chaya or Tree Spinach shrub. It is native to the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico. It is used as a leaf vegetable in Mexican and Central American cuisines similar to spinach, thus its common name. Unlike spinach, Chaya leaves must be cooked before being eaten. In South Florida however, I believe the main reason to grow this plant is its excellent nectar source for honey bees and butterflies.

Along the lines of nectar sources, are two Jatrophas. Jatropha podagrica (The Gout Plant) and Jatropha integerrima (Peregrina Tree or Spicy Jatropha). Both with bright red flowers which tend to draw in Monarch Butterflies to their flowers. While Jatropha integerrima is a small tree which by the way blooms year-round, Jatropha podagrica is a smaller plant, which can attain a height of 3-4 feet over time with a swollen caudex for moisture storage during times of drought. This feature is very popular with collectors of caudiciform plants. Like all members of the Euphorbiaceae Family, their seed pods explode, sending seeds several feet from the mother plant, and seedlings are very commonly found all around the plant.

Richard Lyons Nursery has all three of these plants in stock.

Under The Jakfruit Tree

Today, ‘Under The Jakfruit Tree, will actually be about Jakfruit trees.  No matter how you spell it, Jakfruit or Jackfruit, it is the largest fruit that grows on a tree in the world.  It is native to India, but it has been cultivated throughout Southeast Asia and right here in our own backyard of South Florida. The fruit grows on the trunks of the trees and old growth branches. While most fruit weighs an average of 20-40 pounds, there has been fruit weighing in at 100 pounds. August is the peak month for ripe Jackfruit, but green fruit, used in cooking, can be harvested as early as May and June.

Richard Lyons Nursery currently has many fruits on the trees in various stages, so stop on by and marvel at how large this fruit can be.

Under The Jakfruit Tree

South Florida has a very diverse population of butterflies, and one of the most interesting is the Giant Swallowtail butterfly (Papilio cresphontes). It is the largest species of butterfly found in North America. It has a wing span of 4-6.25 inches with a striking yellow and black coloration. The larva or caterpillar is sometimes referred to as The Orange Dog, because the host plant for this butterfly is members of the Citrus Family (Rutaceae). In S. Florida Citrus is still commonly grown, especially Key Limes, although several diseases have reduced the Citrus population. However, Citrus isn’t the only member of the family grown in S. Florida. Common Rue (Ruta graveolens), Wild Lime (Zanthoxylum fagara), White Sapote (Casimiroa edulis), and a small ornamental shrub, Lemonia (Ravenea spectabilis) are all members of the Citrus Family, and the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly will lay eggs on these plants for the larvae to consume.

The larvae or caterpillars resemble wet bird droppings when they hatch. This is a very useful camouflage to avoid predation. If this isn’t enough to avoid being eaten, they also possess an anatomical structure called an osmeteria. When the caterpillar is threatened, a pair of orange antennae like projections come out of the head emitting an unpleasant musky odor to ward off prey.

Richard Lyons Nursery carries many of the host plants for this butterfly as well as those for other butterflies which visit South Florida gardens.

Under The Jakfruit Tree

This week’s selection is the Genus Portlandia and two relatives of Portlandia, Cubanola and Catesbaea. These small trees have very fragrant flowers which are pollinated by moths. All three are members of the Rubiaceae family which is home to coffee and gardenias.

Portlandia grandiflora (Tree Lily or Bell Flower) has fragrant flowers like its relative, the Gardenia.  It is a small tree or shrub from the Caribbean attaining a height of 6-8 feet.  It grows best in filtered light and does very well in South Florida’s alkaline soils.  It blooms from spring to fall with 6 inch long bell shaped white to pinkish white flowers contrasted against dark green lush fleshy leaves.

Portlandia coccinea var. proctorii (Pink Bell Flower) is endemic to Jamaica and has a similar growth habit to P. grandiflora.  However, its leaves and flowers are much smaller and the flower color is pink to red.

Cubanola domingensis (Dominican Bell Flower) is endemic to the Dominican Republic and was once classified in the genus Portlandia.  It is a 5 foot shrub and its flowers are long, narrow, and hang straight down in pairs.  They are also fragrant like Portlandia, but off-white to almost green in color.  This plant thrives in partial shade to full shade.

Catesbaea spinosa (Lily Thorn) is native to the Caribbean basin and grows in full to partial sun and can attain a height of 8 feet.  It has a corky bark, very slender, tiny leaves, and with thorny branches.  It has 6 inch yellow-white flowers which dangle from the plant.  It produces an edible fruit which is slightly tart, but with good flavor.  Another member of this genus is C. parviflora which is native to the Florida Keys and is endangered.

Richard Lyons Nursery currently has all of these plants in stock.