Red Silk Cotton Tree (Bombax ceiba)

This tree has a straight trunk armed with conical spines, especially when young, and much more sparse with age.  It’s a massive tree, attaining a height of 80′ tall and a crown spread of 50′.  This tree produces large 6-7″ red or orange cupped flowers (depending on the cultivar), which appear in January-February before any new foliage begins to leaf out.  Each flower lasts 5-7 days and the tree blooms for approximately 1 month.  After flowering, new foliage appears in March-April, and large 6″ woody fruit capsules begin forming.  These capsules are filled with small brown seeds embedded in silky hairs.  The capsules split open in April and May and the seeds float down from the tree attached to the silky cotton and are carried by the wind great distances.

Bombax ceiba is native to southeast Asia and northern Australia.  It is widely cultivated in Thailand and Myanmar for the dried flower cones which are an essential ingredient of the Nam ngiao spicy noodle soup, as well as Kaeng Khae curry.

The tree was first introduced into the United States in 1912, by Royal Palm Nurseries, and is not uncommon in south Florida landscapes.  It is also often seen in the Naples, Fort Myers, and Sarasota landscape, and occassionally as far north as the Orlando area.

Richard Lyons’ Nursery has both the orange flowering variety as well as the red flowering variety for sale in 15gal. pots 10-12′ tall.

Bombax ceiba (Red Silk Cotton Tree)

Bombax ceiba (Red Silk Cotton Tree)

Bombax ceiba (Orange Silk Cotton Tree)

Bombax ceiba (Orange Silk Cotton Tree)

Bombax ceiba (Spines on Trunk)

Bombax ceiba (Spines on Lower Half of Trunk)

Three Gallon Jaboticaba for $20

Myrciaria caulifera (Jaboticaba9)

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

This week I have something very interesting for your South Florida garden. The jaboticaba is not just delicious, it’s a very attractive addition to your garden. It’s also a great conversation piece because the fruit forms and ripens directly on the bark of the tree. The fruit is deliciously sweet. From now through Sunday Jan 27, you can buy your own jaboticaba tree, or get them for your friends for only $20 for a three gallon container. Remember to mention “Richard’s Deal.”

African Tulip Tree (Spathodea campanulata)

One of the most striking of winter-flowering trees found in southern Florida is the African Tulip Tree, Spathodea campanulata.  This fast-grower is monotypic, i.e., the sole species in its genus.  It is native to tropical areas of western and central Africa, where it can reach about 80 ft. in height, but in our part of the world, it settles into the 25-40 ft. range.  A member of the Bignoniaceae, Spathodea is related to Jacaranda, Tabebuia, and Radermachera.

The African Tulip Tree should be grown in full sun.  Its 3-4 in. flowers, generally produced near the top of the crown, are usually in the red-scarlet-orange range, but a nice yellow form occurs less commonly.  The plant’s species name is a reference to the bell-like shape of the blooms.  What makes them particularly showy is their habit of clustering, which at a distance creates the impression of a very large flower.  Because of their configuration, the flowers hold dew and rain, and accordingly attract birds. The seeds are small, winged structures, easily distributed by wind.  The pinnate leaves of Spathodea mature to a glossy dark green and make the tree attractive even when not in bloom.

The African Tulip Tree is capable of flowering at just a few years of age when grown with ample irrigation.  In fact, even though the species is quite tolerant of drought once acclimated to its planting site, it thrives in moist soils.  It is therefore an excellent candidate for planting in areas that might flood from time to time.  While Spathodea tolerates only a bit of frost, it does handle cool weather well enough to be found occasionally in coastal California.

The wood of this tree is not particularly valuable commercially, though it is used to make drums, paper and bellows.  However, it has one particularly noteworthy quality — resistance to fire — that helps make it a nice addition to residential landscaping.

Both the red- and yellow-flowering forms are available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3- and 15-gallon containers.  The yellow cultivar sold here is a grafted tree to ensure that you are purchasing a true yellow flower, since trees grown from seed are variable in color.


Spathodea campanulata ‘Aurea’ (Yellow African Tulip Tree) Grafted

Spathodea campanulata (Orange African Tulip Tree Foreground, Yellow Cultivar in Background)

Spathodea campanulata (Orange African Tulip Tree)

Spathodea campanulata (Orange African Tulip Tree)

Spathodea campanulata (Orange and Yellow Flower of African Tulip Tree)

Spathodea campanulata (Orange African Tulip Tree)

Richard’s Special January 17, 2013

Richard Lyons

Richard Lyons, owner of Richard Lyons Nursery, Inc.

Nothing adds flavor to a meal like fresh herbs from your own garden. Some herbs like dill are great for attracting butterflies to your garden as well, as they add their own beauty and color to everything you grow. This week, my special is for the 4 inch pots of herbs like: basil, parsley, mint, dill, and thyme for only $1. I have other herbs available in larger sizes for $2 and up. Don’t forget, to mention “Richard’s Special” when you visit. This price is good until Sunday January 20 only when you visit our nursery in Miami. I look forward to seeing you.

Concert at The Gifford Arboretum

Steve Pearson at the Gifford Arboretum asked us to spread the word about a concert there. It sounds very interesting. Here’s Steve’s message:

Please join us for a performance by Frost School of Music’s Afro-Peruvian Ensemble tomorrow. The event will take place in the Gifford Arboretum at 5 PM, and I suggest you bring a folding chair or blanket for your comfort while enjoying the music. A flyer for this free event is attached. Free parking will also be available.

I hope each of you enjoyed the holidays, and I send you best wishes for a happy and healthy 2013.