About 35-40 years ago, a Miami couple fresh from a long trip to Asia brought seeds of an attractive Indian evergreen tree to Fairchild Tropical Garden. Over time this species, Polyalthia longifolia (a/k/a P. longifolia var. pendula), has proven to be a very successful introduction to the landscape of southern Florida. Commonly known as the Mast Tree, it is pyramidal – or spindle-shaped – and capable of reaching 30+ ft. in height. It features long drooping branches and dark green lance-shaped glossy leaves with undulating margins. Polyalthia provides an excellent alternative to Italian Cypress, which in southern Florida is prone to spider mites and fungal disorders.
In the landscape of bustling Asian cities, the Mast Tree is often used to soften noise. Aside from its ornamental appeal, Polyalthia is said to contain medicinal properties. Studies reputedly confirm antifungal and antibacterial capacities, as well as usefulness in combating ulcers, fever, hyper-tension, diabetes, and certain cancers. At the nursery, these handsome trees are available in 3- and 15-gallon sizes.