Mysore Raspberry (Rubus niveus)

As you know, we in the subtropical region of Florida are fortunate to be able to grow many, many different plants, both tropical and temperate. But, try as we might, we have found only one species of raspberry that has proven dependable here. It is the Mysore Raspberry, Rubus niveus.

Some sources state that the Mysore Raspberry is native to India and Myanmar (Burma), while others believe that it occurs naturally over a much larger swath of southern Asia. In any event, it is found over a fairly large altitude range, conferring some temperature hardiness to it, certainly enough to handle the typical readings experienced in southern Florida year-round.

R. niveus is a fairly large, sprawling shrub that can reach 10 ft. or more in height. Its cylindrical stems are pubescent (downy) when young, and bear hooked thorns. Its compound leaves possess serrated leaflets that are dark green on top and whitish and fuzzy on the undersides. The flowers of the Mysore Raspberry are pink to reddish-purple, about a half inch across, and clustered.

But, of course, the most desirable feature of the Mysore Raspberry is its fruit. Shaped much like that of the red raspberry, that is, rounded-conical, with a flat base, it is considerably larger, 1/2 to 3/4 in. in diameter. It is red when immature, but darkens to purple-black upon ripening. The ‘bumps’ typical of raspberry fruit are more accurately known as drupelets. Luckily, the small seeds of R. niveus are inoffensive. And the taste is wonderful — sweet and juicy. Not only is the fruit a good source of Vitamin C, but one researcher considers it to be “a valuable natural antioxidant that has an immense scope as an effective source to cure skin diseases, wounds, and tumors.”

The Mysore Raspberry made its way into Florida by a rather circuitous route. First, it was introduced to Kenya many years ago. Then, in 1947, a South African, F.B. Harrington, obtained seeds, and a year later he supplied seeds to the University of Florida’s Tropical Research and Education Center (TREC) in Homestead. By 1952, many nurseries in Florida were offering the plant for sale.

Fortunately, R. niveus seems to be tailor-made for the soils of southern Florida; it thrives in alkaline limestone or in acidic sand. Supplemental irrigation should be supplied during the dry season. The best fruiting occurs when plants are grown in less than full sunlight. And while this species fruits all year long, the best combination of quality and size occurs in the winter and spring. Accordingly, a homeowner may want to prune plants significantly in late spring. On the other hand, if left alone, R. niveus, with its thorns, makes a formidable barrier planting that discourages both animal and human intruders.

Mysore Raspberry can be found at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. containers.

Brownea ariza a Crowd-Pleaser

You might say that Brownea ariza comes from a good family. That family is the Fabaceae, or legumes, whose edible representatives include beans and peas. Browneas, though, are known for their beauty, and B. ariza is a standout in that group. Native to northern South America, this small tree first catches one’s eye with its unusual habit of foliation: New leaves emerge pale and droopy, but soon harden to a more vigorous look. Some botanists speculate that this habit is a mechanism to discourage predation of tender new growth.

Commonly known as Scarlet Flame Bean or Mountain Rose, B. ariza is a medium-sized tree, maturing to 20-25 ft. It is happiest in soils that range from mildly alkaline to mildly acidic, and it appreciates abundant moisture, although it can handle drying out between waterings during the cooler months. The wood of this species is quite dense and therefore termite-resistant. A chemical found in the bark of B. ariza is said to have medicinal properties, particularly the ability to slow or stop bleeding.

Ornamentally, the big payoff of B. ariza is its flowers. Often appearing when the plants are just 3-4 years old, the flowers emanate directly from the stem or woody branches, a trait known as cauliflory. Each inflorescence is not only large, a 4-5 in. head, but also intensely colorful in the orange-red range, making it attractive to butterflies and bees. Stamens protruding (exserting) from the inflorescences give them a bit of a starburst appearance. Though the flowering is fairly short-lived, it is spectacular.

This tree is available at Richard Lyons Nursery in 15 gal. containers

Citrus Greening Update

As has been stated in this space periodically over the past several years, Richard Lyons’ Nursery has ceased selling citrus. That’s because of the continuing incidence of citrus greening (or Huanglongbing), a disease that so far has no cure. A news story published May 31 in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune focuses attention on the subject in a new way: the effect of citrus greening on packing houses instead of on growers. It reports that the number of citrus packing facilities in Florida has decreased drastically because of the disease. The most startling revelation in the article is the news that Ben Hill Griffin, Inc., longtime megastar in the state’s agricultural industry, will not even open its packing house in Frostproof for the 2017-18 season. Read on for more details about the state of affairs of Florida citrus, including news that offers a slight glimmer of hope in an otherwise sad situation.

http://Florida’s fruitpacking houses struggle to survive

Podranea ricasoliana (Pink Trumpet Vine)

One of the hardiest of vines introduced to the United States is Podranea ricasoliana, the Pink Trumpet Vine. During the fall, winter and spring it bears fragrant pale pink, bell-shaped flowers highlighted by red stripes. The glossy foliage is also attractive. The plant is one of the Bignoniaceae family, which also includes the Jacaranda Tree.

The vine is thought to be native to the eastern coast of South Africa, but some botanists believe that it may have been introduced there by merchants. When left to its own devices, the plant can reach 16-20 ft. high and wide, but is very amenable to hard pruning following flowering. In fact, annual pruning also serves to proliferate flowering the next time around. It can be left as a ground cover or mounted to a trellis, pergola or chain link fence. Since this species does not produce tendrils, it may be tied to its support in whatever arrangement the grower favors.

The Pink Trumpet Vine is hardy throughout Florida and in parts of Texas, Arizona and California, proof of its resistance to both heat and cold. Frost may nip leaf tips, but regrowth is vigorous. The vine favors good drainage, and regular composting will help it thrive by lowering soil pH. P. ricasoliana is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gallon containers.

Podranea ricasoliana (Pink Trumpet Vine)

Podranea ricasoliana (Pink Trumpet Vine)


We highly recommend a lizard for your house

Well, not exactly, but we needed to get your attention. What we’re really talking about is the Lizard Vine, Tetrastigma voinierianum. This vigorous species, native to Laos and North Vietnam, is a liana, that is, a woody vine. The plant is in the grape family (Vitaceae); indeed, its leaves are grapelike in shape, but are generally larger, up to a foot long. (Its characteristic leaf shape also gives rise to another of the species’ common names, Chestnut Vine.) The shiny serrated foliage bears reddish-brown hairs on the underside. The brown stems of T. voinierianum are thick and ropelike.

The Lizard Vine produces small chartreuse flowers which begin appearing during early summer, but they are not a focal point. The species is quite cold-hardy, able to withstand temperatures perhaps as low as 25º. It likes abundant watering. Interestingly, a newly-installed plant will sometimes delay putting on a growth spurt if conditions are not immediately to its liking, but it is otherwise a very robust grower.

This species has proven rather versatile. It can be maintained as a containerized house plant — sometimes in a hanging basket — so long as it is not relegated to the darkest part of a room. Outside it tolerates lighting exposures from shade to sun. The plant can quickly cover a chain-link fence that the homeowner might want to soften. It also performs well on a pergola. T. voinierianum is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3-gal. trellised containers.