Key Thatch
Leucothrinax morrisii

Key Thatch

The trunk of key thatch is eight inches in diameter and the leaves may be three feet wide on a long petiole.  Dark green on top with a white underside make this an outstanding specimen or, as in this picture, an eye catching mass.

Key thatch is native to the Florida Keys in coral rock soils with organic matter and some underlying moisture.  It will tolerate salt spray yet not salt water flooding and does well up to Palm Beach County.  No additional water is needed once established.

Key thatch mixes well with Lignum vitae, gumbo limbo, pigeon plum, Joewood and other Keys plants.  The small white berries are favored by birds and the leaves are a larval food for the monk skipper.

Jaquinia keyensis


Joewood is a very slow growing shrub or small tree of the Florida Keys. It grows from four to 10 feet tall in a round shape with interesting twisted branches.

The flowers are very fragrant in creamy masses and occur during the summer. These are followed by pea sized yellow or orange red berries that are important wildlife food.

Joewood naturally occurs in the zone between the mangroves and hammock in the Florida Keys and is tolerant of salt air, short periods of salt water flooding and sandy or calcium rich soil.

Joewood grows well in Palm Beach County with a little organic matter in the soil and full sun. The bark is mottled white and the shape is like a bonsia. This tree must be placed where it will be noticed. Mix with any of the native thatch palms, quail berry, coontie, lignum vitae, rocks, or just gravel or mulch. Let it stand out and not be hidden by other material.

The growth is slow so give it good fertilizer, lots of sun and a rich organic soil and joewood will become one of your most prized specimens.

Jamaica Dogwood
Piscidia piscipula

Jamaica Dogwood

Jamaica dogwood is a medium size tree to 35 feet tall that can tolerate being near the ocean but not continuous salt spray or inundation.

The white or pink flowers are showy in the spring while the tree is briefly leafless.  Jamaica dogwood is very drought tolerant from the Keys up to Palm Beach County but must have some organic matter in the soil.

It makes a beautiful specimen tree or can be mixed with other hammock trees of the Keys such as gumbo limbo, wild tamarind, mastic, pigeon plum and soldier wood.

The seeds are in a dry papery pod which can be left as mulch.  The leaves are food for the cassius blue butterfly and the hammock skipper.

Gumbo Limbo
Bursera simaruba

Gumbo Limbo

Gumbo limbo is a fast growing tree up to 60 feet tall.

The red peeling bark is attractive and mixes well with simpson stopper and soldier wood that also have peeling bark.

Gumbo limbo is native from the Keys, following the coastline, to Brevard Co. It likes average to dry soil and is tolerant of salt air, yet not inundation by salt water for long periods.

The red covered seeds are eaten by the great crested flycatcher in the spring and the leaves are a food source for the larva of the dingy purplewing butterfly.

For a coastal hardwood hammock theme this is one of the best trees to start with. Buy seedlings, which have better growth structure than rooted branches and survive hurricanes better. Mix with wild coffee, firebush, coontie, wild plumbago and marlberry and other hammock trees including pigeon plum, mastic, paradise tree and blolly.

The Spiraling Whitefly is a new problem on this and other plants. It is not killing these trees and is even providing food for migrating warblers. Hopefully an insect that preys on this pest will be introduced soon.

Florida Elm
Ulmus americana
Florida Population

Florida Elm

Florida elm may reach over fifty feet with a spreading crown.  This southern variety of American elm can be found in Martin, St. Lucie, Lee and Collier Counties.  It is associated with moist inland hammocks mixed with hackberry, oaks, slash pine, mulberry and maple.

The leaves of Florida elm drop in late fall remaining leafless until flowers and seeds form in early spring.  The seeds are eaten by Painted Buntings and other birds and the young leaves are a larval food for the Question Mark Butterfly.

Florida elm is easy to grow in average soil of Palm Beach County and most likely south of there. If the soil is moist, a bed of native swamp, or marsh fern makes a nice understory.

Dahoon holly
Ilex cassine

Dahoon Holly

Hollies are what people think of when they hear the word “dioecious”. This simply means that each plant has either male or female flowers.

By planting three or more dahoon hollies in a cluster, you will be sure to have at least one male to ensure pollination and lots of red berries. You can always remove all but one male.

Dahoon holly is found along the edge of swamps from the keys throughout the Southeast Coast. It prefers moist, acid soils where it may receive short term flooding yet will tolerate drought. Dahoon holly grows to 30 or more feet, yet can be easily kept at 15 feet or less.

If there is a wet area in your yard, try planting a group of Dahoon hollies mixed with pond apple, cypress, swamp redbay, red maple, button bush, swamp fern, and other wetland species. The trunk becomes clear of branches and white with red lichen as the tree gets taller. A small grove of dahoon holly with a path going through it and a bench to sit on can be a magical part of the yard.

The small berries ripen in early fall and are a major food source for birds and other animals. The fruit are not poisonous to humans yet not tasty.

Gymnanthes lucida


Crabwood is found in coastal hammocks throughout the Florida Keys and Dade County.

This is a round tree that grows to 25 feet with four inch oval leaves and catkins of small green or reddish flowers. Male and female flowers are separate on the same plant.

The half inch rounded pod splits and scatters three small seeds when dry. They are not an important food for birds. The Florida purplewing butterfly larva feeds on this plant in the Keys.

Mix crabwood with other hammock species from the Florida Keys thru Palm Beach County. The burgundy new growth is beautiful and the moderate size and round shape make this a good front yard tree. Tall paradise, mastic, oak and pigeon plum can be planted within ten feet while lower and bushy Jamaica caper, black ironwood, marlberry, stoppers and lancewood will need their own space of 10-20 feet from crabwood.

Protect from direct salt air and flooding. Crabwood makes a great hedge in parking lots and other harsh environments with heat and poor soil.