Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Senna mexicana var. chapmanii (Bahama senna)

Among all the species in the Cassia/Senna group, Senna mexicana is one of the most desirable to grow. It flowers nearly continuously throughout the year, providing plenty of color in the landscape. It also generally grows no more than 3 to 4 feet tall, making it easier to manage in small landscapes and butterfly gardens.

Yes, this is a great butterfly plant, serving as a larval food plant for the Cloudless Sulphur, Orange-barred Sulphur, and Sleepy Orange butterflies.

Senna mexicana is native to Central and South America, the Caribbean, and South Florida.
It is recommended for USDA Zones 9b - 11, but stays small enough to be container-grown anywhere.

It will grow in full sun to light shade. Although flowering is probably best in full sun, mine bloom well with only a couple of hours of late-afternoon sunlight.

The evergreen leaves are alternate and pinnate. Flowers are followed by flat, dry pods that turn brown when mature.

Established plants are drought-tolerant, and they are also salt-tolerant, making this a good choice for coastal plantings.

Propagation is usually by seed.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Rose apple (Syzygium jambos)

Syzygium jambos is a small tree or large shrub bearing delicious yellow fruits with the flavor of rosewater.
The yellow blooms are borne in clusters at the ends of the previous season's growth. In subtropical locations flowering usually occurs in spring. The flowers consist of numerous stamens and one stigma, and the trees are quite showy when in bloom.

The clusters of yellow fruits ripen 3 months after flowering. Individual fruits are about an inch in diameter. When fully ripe they will drop from the tree, but they can be picked once they have turned from green to solid yellow.

The fruits are hollow and usually contain 1 or 2 seeds. The flesh is slightly crunchy and somewhat dry, but with an amazing aroma and flavor reminiscent of rosewater. They are usually eaten fresh, but can also be made into jams, jellies, or syrup.

The seeds are dark brown, and have a rough, almost sandpaper texture.They are poly-embryonic and may produce 1 to 3 seedlings from each seed.

Syzygium jambos grows to about 20-30 feet tall, often with multiple trunks. Some specimens get much larger. Leaves are opposite, lanceolate, and about 8 inches long by 2 inches wide.

New growth is a coppery-red color, gradually turning dark green as the leaves harden off.
The bark on the trunk is gray and slightly furrowed.

This species is believed to be native to Southeast Asia, but is grown in tropical and subtropical climates around the world. It is recommended for USDA Zones 9b-11.

Propagation is generally by seed, but air-layers are also possible. Cuttings have a low success rate.

Syzygium jambos is commonly known as Rose Apple.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Zamia maritima (cardboard plant)

Zamia maritima is a cycad, a taxonomic branch that has existed virtually unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs. Its thick, firm leaflets are the reason it is often known as cardboard plant.
The leaf petioles are covered with numerous stiff prickles.

The natural spread of mature plants is about 4 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide, so give them some room in the landscape. Although the leaves can remain on the plant in good condition for several years, each year sees just one flush of new leaves all at once.

On young plants the leaves grow in a rosette around a single growing point, as in the first photo.
As it matures, the plant has a clumping growth habit, and increases in diameter by splitting off new growing points, each with their own rosette of leaves. This is the same plant 5 years later:

The individual plants are either male or female, and can be identified by their blooms, which appear in early summer.

Male plants produce slender, upright, tan/brown cones.

Female plants produce cones that are fatter, and with larger segments.

Male plants produce their cones in large quantities, and male plants also tend to form more offsets.

The seeds develop inside the cone for 7-8 months, then the cone splits open to reveal the bright red, glossy fruits.

The fruits are toxic to dogs. If you are concerned about your pets, plant male specimens, or remove the female cones any time before they split open.

Zamia maritima is native to Mexico, and is recommended for USDA Zones 9-11. It will grow in sun or shade, and also makes a durable houseplant. This species is drought-tolerant, as well as salt-tolerant, and can be used in beach-side plantings.

Propagation is by seed.