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.
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.
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.
Jaboticaba performs much better in cultivation than under natural conditions. Although a tree may not begin to flower for eight years, given appropriate moisture and fertilization it will eventually flower and fruit several times a year. The flowers are small and white, and the leathery skin of Jaboticaba fruit ripens in a range of color from purplish-maroon to almost black. The period from flowering to fruit harvest is encouragingly short — 20-30 days. The fruit, which ripens an inch or so in diameter, has a grapelike appearance, but contains just 1-4 large seeds. The gelatinous flesh is white to pink, and its flavor ranges from sweet to subacid. Since the fruit has a fairly short shelf life, it is usually eaten fresh, but is also used to make jams, jellies, pies, and alcoholic beverages. Fruit skins are known to have medicinal value and are said to be processed for anti-cancer compounds. However, consuming the raw skin more than occasionally is not recommended due to its high tannin content.
This very nice fruit tree is available at Richard Lyons’ Nursery in 3- and 15-gal. containers.
The term ‘Bamboo Palm’ has been applied to several palm species because of their resemblance to genuine bamboo. What each of the ersatz bamboos features in common is multiple smooth stems interrupted by horizontal rings. Over time Chamaedorea seifrizii probably has been the most frequently-cited and dependable of the so-called Bamboo Palms.
Chamaedorea is a New World genus of over 100 species, and many have found significant niches in the landscape of southern Florida. More than a few have demonstrated the invaluable capacity to adapt from native rainforest habitats to successful roles as indoor ornamental plants. C. seifrizii perhaps fulfills that function better than any others.
C. seifrizii is a clustering species whose thin, cane-like stems grow to variable heights, roughly 7-12 ft. It features semi-glossy pinnate leaves which are distributed along each stem, rather than just at the top. (Leaflet shape is quite variable in this species, and over time some forms have been erroneously marketed under different names. For example, the wider-leaflet form is often sold as C. erumpens.) Once a specimen matures, it produces orange infructescences that bear pea-sized fruit which ripens black. The combination of colors is very striking and attractive.
The species is native from the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico into Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. In part of its range, it thrives in swampy settings, but elsewhere it occurs under seasonally arid conditions. That versatility likely explains why this palm is among the most drought-tolerant of Chamaedoreas. Cold tolerance in southern Florida is generally not a worry in the populated regions; C. seifrizii withstands temperatures down to 28° and can usually overcome the damage that occurs at 26°.
C. seifrizii’s versatility extends to light demands as well. It is tolerant of both very bright outdoor positions and low indoor lighting. However, like Rhapis excelsa, its color bleaches out in full sun, particularly in a climate — such as that of southern Florida — where summer temperatures commonly exceed 90°.
The adaptability of this species to indoor lighting conditions has made it very popular for interior landscaping, although for best results it should not be placed unrealistically distant from a window or a source of good artificial lighting. If a regular watering schedule is observed, maintenance of this Bamboo Palm is rather undemanding. About the only problem to watch for when growing C. seifrizii indoors is, as with many other plants, occasional infestations of red spider mite.
C. seifrizii is available at the nursery in 7- and 15-gal. containers.