• Eugenia rhombea , Red stopper: This native tree has a smooth, mottled, brown to gray trunk which, combined with its fine-textured leaves and tight canopy, make it a good choice. This tree is columnar, can reach 20 feet and does well in small spaces. It can be used as a screen. Its fruits attract numerous species of birds. This tree is endangered in Florida.
• Guajacum sanctum , Lignum Vitae: This native tree eventually can get very large but is so slow growing that it is considered a small to medium-sized tree. It should be used as a 10- to 15-foot specimen planting. The tree has dark green compound leaves that are wine-colored when new. The flowers are a striking dark blue; the fruits are yellow and split open to reveal handsome seeds covered by a dark red aril. The tree will occasionally fruit and flower at the same time, and that is when it is at its most beautiful.
• Hamelia patens var . patens , Firebush: The firebush is one of the best native plants in South Florida. Whenever anyone asks me for a great landscape plant, this one is always on my short list. Its small, red, tubular flowers give the plant its name and occur in great quantities year-round. The flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. The 15-foot tree is highly manageable through pruning and can be kept as a four- to five-foot shrub. The firebush makes an excellent screen. The leaves are green with an occasional red blush, and the trunk is an attractive dark brown. If the firebush is planted near the native corkystem passionflower, Passiflora suberosa, you will have a complete habitat for the zebra longwing butterflies. This plant does best in full sun.
• Krugiodendron ferreum , Black Ironwood: This handsome native tree is known for its extremely dense wood, which will sink in water. The tree is slow-growing and can reach 30 feet. The leaves are glossy and contrast nicely with the tree’s dark bark. The tree produces fruits that are much sought after by birds. It does best in full sun.
• Myrcianthes fragrans , Simpson stopper: This is a beautiful native found in hardwood hammocks. The tree is columnar and can reach 20 feet. The leaves are small, dark green and very attractive. The small flowers are white and somewhat fragrant. The resulting small orange fruits are much sought after by birds. Butterflies are also attracted to the Simpson’s stopper. Full sun is best, but it will do well in partial shade.
• Pimenta dioica , Allspice: This is an attractive tree with dark green, ribbed leaves and a peeling bark. The tree is columnar in shape and may reach 20 feet. Its outstanding feature is the smell of the allspice leaf when crushed. As you lead your friends on a tour of the yard, be sure to let them break and smell a leaf; the smell is heavenly, sort of a mixture of delicious and incredible. Trees may be male or female and the female tree’s dry, immature fruit are used in cooking.
• Prunus myrtifolia , West Indian Cherry: This native tree is fast-growing and is excellent as a screen. The leaves are glossy and the fruit is much prized by many species of birds. Despite the name, the fruit is not edible and should be left to the birds. The tree can reach 30 feet and is columnar with a spread of only eight to nine feet.
• Schaefferia frutescens , Florida Boxwood: This is a Florida native that is underused. Its leaves are small and dark green and the plant has small white flowers that produce fruits, which will attract several species of birds. The attractive yellow wood has been used in making boxes and carving. The growth rate is moderate, and the plant can reach 20 feet with a width of 10 feet.
For more information about South Florida gardening, visit www.fairchildgarden.org/gardening.
Jeff Wasielewski is an outreach specialist at Fairchild, an expert in South Florida horticulture and a professor of horticulture at Miami Dade College.