Tropical Florida Gardens - What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Tropical Florida Gardens

What's in Bloom at the Edison & Ford Winter Estates?

Name That Plant X ANSWER: Lipstick Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On August 19th

Congratulations to Colin Brenner for correctly identifying this week’s mystery plant!

Lipstick Tree, Bixa orellana

If you’ve eaten cheddar cheese, you’ve eaten the product of this plant. The seeds of the lipstick tree, or achiote tree, are used to make annatto, a common food coloring. It was once used as body paint, insect repellant, and ink for hundreds of years by people living in the Caribbean and Tropical Americas. Today it is mostly used to add a reddish yellow color to food and you can find annatto in the spice aisle of your local supermarket.

The seeds from the lipstick tree grow within a bright red hairy seed pod on the branches of the lipstick tree. The tree may reach a height of 20 feet if left untrimmed. It is rated for zones 9B-11 and does best in full sun. Although the pink flowers are quite pretty, it’s the seed pods that will really attract attention to your garden. And if you’re a chef, the seeds can easily be processed at home for use in your recipes. The Estates recently lost a large lipstick tree in the severe January freeze but two small ones managed to survive and are behind the large bougainvillea on the Edison property. We also have a few lipstick trees available in our Garden Shoppe.

Name That Plant III ANSWER: Strawberry Tree

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 28th

by Britta Soderqvist, Plant Curator

Last week we asked you to identify this plant:

Today, we have the answer for you –

Strawberry Tree or Jamaica Cherry, Muntingia calabura

This is a perfect tree for a lazy gardener!  Do you enjoy sweet, home-grown fruit like strawberries but don’t like all that bending and stooping to plant, weed and harvest?  The strawberry tree produces copious amounts of small, sweet fruits at least twice a year, all at knee level or higher.  Don’t like to spend the money and effort fertilizing and watering your garden?  This tree grows well in poor soils and is even used to help revegetate disturbed and eroded soils in some parts of the world.  Once established, the strawberry tree shouldn’t require any extra watering except in prolonged droughts.

The strawberry tree (named for the flower that resembles the strawberry plant) may grow up to 40 feet, but the fruits will easily fall to the ground when the tree is shaken.  Although not native to Florida, it is native to the tropical Americas and will do well in areas that do not freeze often (Zones 10-11).  If you live in a colder climate, plants grown in pots should still produce fruits.  Although it is reported that wildlife will eat the fruits, there are plenty of ripe fruits underneath the Edison & Ford Winter Estates trees, suggesting that our local birds don’t care for them.  The large tree at the Estates (across the paved road from our Banyan Café) was planted in 2006 and is approximately 15 feet tall now.  The Estates Garden Shoppe sells strawberry trees for $10-$15 depending on the size of the plant.

Plant Spotlight: Dwarf Poinciana

Posted by Edison Ford Winter Estates On June 17th

by Britta Soderqvist, Estates Plant Curator

Dwarf Poinciana, Caesalpinia pulcherrima

This is a fast-growing shrub or small tree, growing up to 12 feet in height and sometimes 12 feet in width.  It blooms best in full sun and tolerates drought well.  A variety of flower colors are available, although the yellow and red variety (pictured above) is most common.  Flowers can appear year-round but are more prolific during the warm months.  The Dwarf Poinciana is thought to have originated from the West Indies and the tropical Americas.

Unlike its larger “cousin” the Royal Poinciana, the Dwarf Poinciana can grow in cooler temperatures.  It has been known to survive in temperatures as low as the high teens.  During extreme cold, it may die back to the ground but will likely recover.  Dwarf Poincianas will bloom when potted but they do better when planted in the ground. 

If you love the look of the Royal Poinciana Trees that are blooming all over McGregor Boulevard but don’t have the room for such a large tree, consider purchasing a Dwarf Poinciana from the Estates Garden Shoppe.  Plants in 6 inch pots are $10 and have been selling quickly. You can see our Dwarf Poinciana in full bloom next to the fountain between the Edison Main House and the Moonlight Garden.