Friends of the Gifford Arboretum September Meeting

Craig Morell, Pinecrest Gardens Horticulturist

Craig Morell, Pinecrest Gardens Horticulturist

Gifford Arboretum meeting
Thursday, Sept. 6, 7:00 pm
at University of Miami, Cox Science Center, Coral Gables, FL
Phone: (305) 284-1302
“A Better Diet Makes a Better Garden: The Renovation of Pinecrest Gardens.” Craig Morell, Pinecrest Gardens Horticulturist, will describe some of the profound changes that have taken place to transform Parrot Jungle into Pinecrest Gardens. Learn how proper use of fertilizers can improve your garden without damaging the environment, and also hear the history of, and future plans for, the garden.

Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden Plant Sale

I will be one of the plant vendors at Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden’s ‘Free Sundays in August’  promotion.  I will have plants for sale August 12th, 19th, and 26th.  Admission is free to everyone on those days, so come on over and enjoy the garden and say hello.  Hopefully we will have a plant you are interested in.

The Atala Butterfly

This is an interesting article from the University of Florida about the relationship between the Atala butterfly and its host plant, Florida Coontie  At the nursery we have a population of the Atala Butterflies, and the adults can be seen landing on the Sweet Almond flowers (Aloysia virgata) and Florida Fiddlewood flowers (Citharexylum spinosum) for nectar, and laying its eggs on the many Florida Coontie (Zamia integrifolia) on the property.


Citharexylum spinosum (Fiddlewood)


Aloysia virgata (Sweet Almond)

Aloysia virgata (Sweet Almond)

Eumaeus atala larvae on Zamia pumila (Atala Butterfly larvae on Coontie)

Eumaeus atala chrysalis on Zamia pumila (Atala Butterfly chrysalis on Florida Coontie)

Eumaeus atala (Adult Atala Butterfly)

Sabal mauritiiformis

Sabal mauritiiformis Inflorescence (Savannah Palm)

A very interesting flowering plant is blooming in the nursery this month.  That’s not to say you’ll want one for its beautiful flowers; like most palms, the flowers of Sabal mauritiiformis won’t attract oohs and aahs.  But here is what you’ll like about the palm:

Sabal mauritiiformis is probably the fastest-growing of the 20 or so species of Sabal.  Native from northern South America to southern Mexico, this palm produces fairly large, deeply-split circular leaves — reminiscent of those of Licuala — even before the trunk develops.  And the undersides of the leaves are mildly silvery.  Eventually this palm will reach 30-60 ft. tall, with a trunk about a foot in diameter.

Like the more common Sabals, S. mauritiiformis features a criss-cross pattern of old leaf bases on the trunk, but what is special about it is that the leaf bases remain green for a long time.  In the nursery, we are growing this palm in two sites.  In one place, we’re raising “twins,” and in the other location we have the single specimen shown in the photos above, and we look forward to many years of good looks and bountiful seed production.  The good news for those who want a plant right now is that we have available newly-potted seedlings of Sabal mauritiiformis obtained from an outside seed source.

This palm would make a striking addition to your collection, and it is cold-hardy into the upper 20s.  Versatile as well, it can be planted in full sun or partial shade.

Lenny Goldstein

Rainbow Shower Tree: Featured Plant of the Week

Cassia fistula x C. javanica (Rainbow Cassia)

This tree is a hybrid between Cassia fistula (Golden Shower Tree) and Cassia javanica(Apple Blossom Tree).  The flowers are a blend of the two trees.  Some are more yellow than pink, while others are the reverse, giving a very spectacular look to the tree when it is in full bloom.  We propagate this tree by air-layering to get an identical tree as the parent.  If you are looking for something a little different, but very beautiful, this may be the tree for you.