General Landscape Uses: An accent or specimen shrub or small tree. Also useful in buffer plantings and informal hedges.
Ecological Restoration Notes: A common element of coastal hammocks and thickets.
Description: large shrub or small upright tree with a slender crown composed of short branches. Foliage dense in sun, becoming open in shade. Trunks 2-6 inches in diameter. Bark dark red brown, rough. Leaves smooth and shiny above, rusty beneath, 2-3 inches long.
Dimensions: Typically 6-12 feet in height, sometimes more. Taller than broad.
Growth Rate: Slow to moderate.
Range: Monroe County Keys north along the coasts to Brevard, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties; West Indies, Mexico and Central America. For a digitized image of Elbert Little’s Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.
Habitats: Coastal hammocks.
Soils: Moist, well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with humusy top layer.
Nutritional Requirements: Moderate to high; grows best with some organic content and may languish in nutrient poor soils.
Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water.
Salt Wind Tolerance: High; can tolerate moderate amounts of salt wind without significant injury.
Drought Tolerance: High; does not require any supplemental water once established.
Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade.
Flower Color: Opens white, turning pink within a few hours.
Flower Characteristics: Showy, brushlike, 1 1/2″ long. Fragrant, mostly so in the evening.
Flowering Season: Spring-summer; peak in spring.
Fruit: Brown capsule, 9-12″ long, rupturing irregularly with age, exposing the red interior; summer.
Wildlife and Ecology: Provides food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for Florida white (Appias drusilla) butterflies. Attracts pollinators.
Horticultural Notes: Grown from seed, which need to be scarified. Start in shade and move to full sun after true leaves are formed. Germination is within a month.
References: Nelson 2003
Comments: This is an excellent plant for coastal gardens. See also the Florida Wildflower Foundation’s Flower Friday page.