A hardy shrub for hot South Florida

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Native Tetrazygia bicolor.

Enjoying the heat of summer is Tetrazygia bicolor or West Indian lilac. Its white flowers with bold yellow stamens appear crisp and undeterred by the wilting heat. This native shrub loves our limestone soils and yet it appreciates some organic content. The shrub is in the Melastomaceae, a wide-ranging tropical family, and it has characteristic melastome leaves with distinctive veins. In southern Florida, it grows on the edges of hammocks to garner sun and produce flowers. It is on the state’s threatened list, but grows in the West Indies as well as South Florida. Not a fast-growing plant, Tetrazygia bicolor may be hampered if planted too deep. About as wide as it is tall, which may be up to 20 feet, the shrub may be made more compact by pinching new growth to encourage fullness. Berries produced in the fall are purple and are eaten by cardinals, blue jays and mocking birds.

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