Various Palm Seedlings At The Nursery

We’ve certainly had our share of strange winters in recent years.  For instance, 2009-10 was remarkable for sustained cold.  After an abnormally warm December 2009, January ushered in the coldest two-month period since 1940.  There wasn’t much frost, except in the most interior districts of southern Florida, but persistent very cool days and nights eventually took a toll on many tropical plant species.  Even large, mature specimens of Kapok (Ceiba pentrandra) and Tropical Almond (Terminalia catappa), including those near the coast, were so badly shocked that they did not leaf out until May.  The Live Oak (Quercus virginiana), a mostly temperate zone native, reacted to the aberrant weather by fruiting profusely; the sound of acorns falling mimicked rainfall in some yards.

The winter of 2012-13 has proven unpredictable in its own way.  November 2012 was cooler than normal, but the next three months were the third-warmest for that period in Miami’s recorded history.  And following nearly the wettest summer in local history, the rain gauges ran nearly dry during that quarter.  In likely reaction to those conditions, the white Shaving Brush Tree (Pseudobombax ellipticum) was seen beginning to flower as early as mid-December, about two months early, and at least one Royal Poinciana (Delonix regia) was observed flowering in January, presumably an act of perseverance from the preceding season.

But in March the atmospheric system that had been blocking cold fronts from reaching southern Florida shifted, and brisk winter weather invaded our region several times.  As a result of the early- and late-season cool snaps, Tropical Almonds were tricked into producing beautiful red foliage twice in one season, a phenomenon that few people recall having seen before.  A poem may not be as lovely as a tree, but, alas, some trees are very gullible.

But notwithstanding recent lurches, spring is inexorably on the way, and the folks at Richard Lyons’ Nursery are starting to look ahead by surveying some of the youngest plants on the property.  Most are still in community pots, to be separated and repotted when soil temperatures become dependably warmer, but we want to present a few of them to the public.  We start with palms.

Gaussia maya — This native of Mexico, Guatemala and Belize is a single-trunked, pinnate species.  When young, it prefers protection from the sun, but as it matures, it can handle considerable exposure to light.  It differs from most palm species in that it simultaneously produces flower stalks (inflorescences) up and down the trunk that ultimately bear attractive scarlet seed.

Coccothrinax cupularis — Many Coccothrinax species are noted for the fibers that surround the trunk, and that feature is particulary striking in this palm.  The fibers tend to be fairly heavy and stiff and appear to be almost woven.  They persist on the trunk for a number of years.  This species is a reasonably fast-growing representative of the genus, too.

Coccothrinax guantanamensis — There is some uncertainty of the exact identity of this species, but the important ornamental fact is that it features a substantially thicker trunk than most other Coccothrinax species.  Its dark green leaves and drought tolerance make it a very desirable plant for the landscape.

Pseudophoenix vinifera — This extraordinarily ornamental, slow-growing pinnate species is native to Hispaniola and was once used in the production of wine, but the process required the destruction of the tree.  The palm features a graceful swollen trunk bearing ‘rings’ exposed whenever an old leaf falls off.  It is quite drought-tolerant.

Copernicia berteroana — Copernicias are noted for very slow growth, but this species is considered one of the faster members of the genus.  A mid-sized palmate species from Hispaniola, it is one of the few Copernicias not native to Cuba or South America.  It should be grown in full sun, and while it appreciates moisture, it should be afforded good drainage.  This is the only palm in our survey which has been in one-gallon containers since last summer.

Gaussia maya (Maya Palm)

Gaussia maya (Maya Palm)

Gaussia maya (Maya Palm)

Pink Shower Tree (Cassia bakeriana)

An alternative to the more widely planted Cassia javanica (Apple Blossom Shower Tree), C. bakeriana, is smaller in stature, attaining a height of 20-30′, with a 10-15′ canopy spread.  However, what it lacks in overall height, it more than makes up for in bloom size and quantity of flowers.  Its long arching branches are completely covered in pink blossoms from mid-March to April, shedding older leaves prior to blooming.  The blossoms attract bees as well as butterflies, and the flexible branches resist breaking in heavy winds, which is highly desirable in south Florida.

This fast growing tree native to Thailand and SE Asia, is gaining in popularity as it becomes more readily available in the nursery trade.  Richard Lyons’ Nursery has this tree in 7gal. pots approximately 3-5′ in height.

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Cassia bakeriana (Pink Shower Tree)

Allspice (Pimenta dioica) and Bay Rum (Pimenta racemosa)

The genus Pimenta comprises 14 flowering species, among which are a some of the most interesting and desirable aromatic trees in the world.  But it’s all a mistake . . . a big mistake.  Spanish explorers poking around Mexico in the 16th century found an attractive medium-sized tree whose berry-like fruits resembled black pepper, so they called it pimienta, the Spanish word for pepper.  That error has become preserved in the genus name.  We concentrate below on two of the most significant representatives of Pimenta.

Pimenta dioica, the specific plant mistaken for a new source of black pepper, is better-known to most people as the allspice tree or, in another long-perpetuated error, the Jamaican pepper.  The name allspice was bestowed on it by the English around 1621 because they considered its complex taste a combination of clove, cinnamon and nutmeg.  The first recorded instance of the importation of the spice into Europe came in 1601.

This beautiful tree reaches 30-40 ft. high and features aromatic, leathery, glossy, oblong 4-8 in. leaves.  The bark, whitish-gray in color, peels away in thin sheets.  The tree produces clusters of white flowers which are followed by berry-shaped fruits that mature purple-black.  However, in the commercial production of allspice, the fruit is picked green and dried in the sun.  The major volatile oil responsible for this species’ fame is eugenol.

The allspice tree is native to the Greater Antilles (Jamaica, Hispaniola, Puerto Rico and Cuba), southern Mexico and Central America. While the tree is now cultivated in many tropical areas of the world, it is apparently the only spice processed commercially solely in the New World, particularly Mexico, Honduras, Jamaica, Trinidad and Cuba.  Jamaica was the leading exporter of allspice, at least until the 1990s, but there is now some indication that Mexico has superseded it, and Honduras and Guatemala are becoming major exporters.

Once P. dioica is established, it withstands drought and even has some cold tolerance — 26-28°.  It can be grown nicely as a container specimen, as well as in the ground, and performs best in full sun.  While the allspice tree may not flower and fruit dependably outside native areas, it is still quite desirable; even the bark is aromatic!

Most folks know that the spice is used in a variety of condiments, and also in pies, cakes and candies.  But eugenol is also an important constituent of cosmetics and perfumes.  And it may surprise some to learn that allspice is even found in the liqueurs Benedictine and Chartreuse, as well as in Northern European food staples such as pickled fish and sausages.  Eugenol also has medicinal applications as an aid to digestion and an anesthetic for toothaches.  This would appear to suggest that the pies, cakes and candies which contain allspice must also cure toothaches.  Could there be a more perfect food?

The second tree, Pimenta racemosa, better-known as Bay Rum or West Indian Bay Tree, is variable in height, maturing in the 12-40 ft. range, but generally shorter than P. dioica.  It is native to the West Indies and possibly northern South America.  The tree bears attractive, small white flowers which give way to black ovoid fruits.  This species has about the same cultural requirements as the allspice tree, but is several degrees less cold-hardy.

Bay rum is distilled from the berry-like fruits of P. racemosa, but this essential oil is not used in beverages because in that concentration ingestion is toxic.  Instead, it is used as a constituent of colognes, perfumes and soaps.  On the other hand, the leaves of this species are fine for consumption as a syrup or herbal tea, or in cooking.  Leaves are sold fresh or dried.  Medicinally, bay rum has long been employed to treat sore muscles and various strains and sprains.  Scientists later discovered that the essential bay oil contains a constituent possessing anti-bacterial properties.  And even more recently, at least one study has characterized bay oil as a potent antioxidant.

Richard Lyons’ Nursery sells both species of these desirable Pimentas in 3-gal. and 15-gal. containers.

Pimenta dioica (Allspice Fruit)

Pimenta dioica (Allspice Tree with Fruit Forming)

Pimenta dioica (Mature Allspice Tree)

Pimenta dioica (Allspice Tree Beginning to Flower)

Pimenta racemosa (Bay Rum Tree)

Pimenta racemosa (Young Bay Rum Tree)


March Music in the Gifford Arboretum

The Music in the Arboretum event for this month will be held on Thursday,
21st of March 2013 at the stone bench of the arboretum. Featured group for
this month is The Ibis String Trio, from the Frost School of Music. Please
note that with the recent switch to daylight saving time, we will commence
at 6:00 PM and end at 7:00 PM.
This event is free and open to public. Therefore, feel free to invite your
friends and to distribute the attached flyer to anyone/any group, that may
be interested.
Hope to see you all there!


Jaboticaba for only $3

Myrciaria caulifera (Jaboticaba9)

An interesting feature of Myrciaria caulifera (Jaboticaba) is how the fruit forms directly on the trunk and branches of the tree.

Here’s a wonderful opportunity to bring flavor and beauty to your South Florida garden. Our 4 inch pots of jaboticaba are only $3.00 each. The tasty flesh of these fruits is sweet and juicy. At these prices, you can start your own private orchard. Remember that you can only get this price by mentioning Richard’s Special. Get your’s while we still have them.