Golden Shower – Cassia fistula

Some of Florida’s best summer flowering trees are starting to bloom. These Golden Shower trees are about halfway to full bloom. Everytime my husband hears the tree name he snickers, but who wouldn’t? The sausage like fruits are enough to make me laugh without hearing the name. Some of these tropical trees have peculiar fruit that tends to hang around and be fairly unattractive. The leaves on the tree fell off for the most part and the fruit turned brown. Here is the fruit last fall.

Golden Shower Fruit

Golden Shower Fruit

Here is the tree halfway into full bloom:

Golden Shower Tree

Golden Shower Tree

The leaves are filling back in on the tree and it will be fully green through the summer and then produce another set of fruit. I am thinking at some point someone has to pick up a lot of this fruit. But I really haven’t noticed it as they have a good maintenance crew and it is not in my yard.

The first one of these trees I encountered was planted alternating with Rainbow Shower trees as a streetscape planting in Maui, quite festive and tropical. The Rainbow Shower trees flower has a literal rainbow of color on it. Quite something to see and a bit overwhelming. It took me awhile to figure out what the trees were. My first thought was “it’s a Laburnum”, nooo, not in Hawaii. One of its common names is Indian Laburnum and Pudding Pipe Tree is another. Apparently this tree has a few medicinal uses, treating constipation, skin infections, and people in India smoke it – for what reason I am not sure.

Native to Southeast Asia, the Golden Shower is planted as a street tree in tropical climates the world over. I am glad we have a few in front of our library.

Cordias

Last week I posted about spring flowering trees in Tropic Florida. One was a new plant to me, White Geiger or Cordia, the other is a Geiger Tree which I have encountered fairly frequently. Both trees belong to the Genus, Cordia.

This is the Geiger Tree, named shockingly for a guy named Geiger, who was a prominent Conch (resident of Key West) in the 1800’s. The botanical name is Cordia sebestena. These are reported to grow to 25′ tall, I have yet to see one that size. This may be due to a fairly recent availability in the nursery trade. These trees are native to South Florida and the Caribbean. I see them flowering off and on during the year – the floral display seems more prolific in the spring.

Geiger Tree

Geiger Tree

Geiger Flower

Geiger Flower

The tree always seems a bit gangly to me, but the flower certainly gives an orange burst of tropical vibe to the surroundings.

White Geiger Tree

White Geiger Tree

In my opinion, the White Geiger Tree or Cordia (also called Texas Wild Olive, for reasons unknown to me) is a more attractive tree with a more formal shape. The botanical name being Cordia boissieri, this tree is native to the Rio Grande Valley and South Texas. Reportedly more cold hardy but still evergreen and about 25 feet tall, White Cordias are not very popular yet in South Florida. I think they will be.

I have sourced a local grower with one of these in stock. It is just a matter of time before a White Geiger Tree appears in my garden.

Epiphany at the Grocery Store

I stopped by the grocery store this afternoon to pick up some things for dinner. After shopping I went back to my car and was stopped by the beautiful flowering trees in the parking lot.

Having experienced Tropic Florida’s winter for the past several years, it is difficult to conceive of the season of spring. Winter is a whisper in your ear one night in February. In my mind, the season following winter is a literal release from the prison of your house. Standing in the parking lot was evidence of spring occurring further south than my mind had grasped.

The first clue was a Purple Hong Kong Orchid Tree, here is the flower. Botanically speaking this is the Bauhinia purpurea, although there are many varieties. Capturing this tree with photography has been eluding me.

Hong Kong Orchid Flower

Hong Kong Orchid Flower

Hong Kong Orchid Tree

Hong Kong Orchid Tree

The failure of the photo to do the tree justice may be a difficulty with purple, but this tree is spectacular. Draped with the purple orchid like flowers, it appears large purple and pink butterflies have landed in graceful groups along the tops of the branches.

The next tree in the lot was a White Geiger Tree. I would characterize these trees as semi evergreen. The genus is Cordia, I am not sure exactly which one this is as one is from Brazil and another from Texas. Nevertheless, a good addition to the landscape.

White Geiger Tree

White Geiger Tree

The next tree I spied was a Tabebuia, nothing shouts spring like the golden trumpets of the Tabebuia.

Tabebuia

Tabebuia

My Epiphany was that spring does come to the Tropics of Florida. I suppose it is my North American predisposition to think of Spring flowering trees as Redbuds, Dogwoods and Cherries, but before my eyes the trees were evidence of spring blossoming everywhere.

Fall Color in South Florida?

 

Golden Raintree

Golden Raintree

Fall colorin South Florida. This is a seek and ye shall find situation. I have found some signs of the Autumn season here in the tropical Zone 10A hinterlands. The Golden Raintrees started blooming in late September which kind of freaks me out as I associate these trees strongly with Summer. The above pictured Fall color is actually seed pods – which are kind of cool and are fall color as far as I am concerned.

This is a Koelreuteria bipinnata, some call it a Chinese Flame Tree, some call it K. elegans. People in Florida seem to think this tree will grow as far north as Zone 7, this is not true. I am guessing maybe Zone 8. It’s friend Koelreuteria paniculata grows further north (to Zone 5 – I seem to remember these while in Chicago) and has brown much less attractive seed pods. Both are sort of weedy, rambling trees, but the flowers and pods make it worth having. I think well drained soil is key with these trees; my mother killed these trying to grow them on what she referred to as “road bed” yellow, impenetrable clay.

I planted some Muhly grass, for its pink clouds of flowers blowing in the wind during Fall. Mine are just starting to bloom and I am hopeful they don’t reseed everywhere and overrun me..always a concern in a no frost environment. More touches of Fall include the Pennisetums, which are in full bloom here as well, but apparently Miscanthus doesn’t grow this far south.

Muhly Grass

Muhly Grass

I thought Miscanthus grew everywhere! Oh, well. I have Bromeliads..

Bridal Bouquet Plumeria – Plumeria pudica

 

Bridal Bouquet ready for a lei

Bridal Bouquet ready for a lei

A near requirement for living in South Florida, especially as a year round resident, is a Plumeria or a Frangipani in the yard. This is not a good ‘Snowbird’ plant as most Plumeria is naked in the winter and reasonably unattractive.  Summer is a different story, the Plumeria have just burst forth with flowers here on the Treasure Coast and the fragrance and color make it worth having a deciduous tree in the garden.

This is the tree that provides flowers for leis in Hawaii. I was always under the impression the Plumerias were native to the South Pacific. Research tells me the variety Plumeria alba, which is the more common, fragrant, and deciduous Plumeria come from Central and South America.  Sources seem to agree that Plumeria pudica is from Central America. To add to the confusion there is a type of Plumeria called ‘Singapore’ that is native to Columbia. I will leave it to someone else to explain the Hawaiian lei concept.

Enter the Bridal Bouquet Plumeria, I discovered this plant in Stuart, Florida never having seen one before and was told it was evergreen. This particular variety of Plumeria has a columnar habit and I was looking for a plant to place between two windows in an unirrigated planter in front of my house. It is a perfect selection thus far it is about six feet tall and maybe 2 feet wide. There is some disagreement amongst the experts as to the evergreeness of this plant; apparently if it gets cold enough it will drop its foliage.  I can believe it even if Wikipedia doesn’t.

So far the Bridal Bouquet has performed admirably remaining evergreen and blooming profusely. The extension service states it blooms six months out of the year, mine is not quite there. The only complaint I have is the plant is a bit crunchy and high winds tend to blow parts off. It must be noted that the trade off for evergreen foliage is no fragrance. My husband is not a plant guy and he was in the front planter sniffing the plant to no avail. I decided the solution to the crunchies is to root the bits and plant them in front of my neighbors ugly decaying wood fence. Perfect recycle.

There are many, many varieties of Plumeria, and even a society devoted to the plant, inauspiciously called the PSA. I am hopeful this acronym was coined prior to the medical test.