Wild tamarind
Lysiloma latisiliquum

Wild Tamarind

Wild tamarind is native to hammocks within Everglades National Park and portions of the Upper Keys. This large, fast growing tree, up to 50 feet tall, will do well through Palm Beach County and survive freezing temperatures for short periods.

This is a great spreading accent tree with tiny leaflets that fall briefly in the spring.It has many one inch round white flowers that attract butterflies and bees. The seed pods are thin and dry and do not make a mess.

Plant wild tamarind in deep soil, and gradually prune the branches so that they are evenly spaced and have a wide angle to the trunk. Sharp angled branches tend to break off. The soil should be deep and dry and not too fertile or else the tree will grow too fast and tend to break in only moderate winds. A tree that starts breaking early in moderate winds should be moved or removed if the leader is lost.

Warblers and other birds pick tiny insects from the bark. Plant from the south side to the northwest corner of the house for summer shade. The tiny leaflets will fall in the early spring and allow sunlight to warm your home. Wild tamarind allows just enough light thru to support shade tolerant shrubs underneath.

The foliage is the larval food for the cassius blue, large orange sulphur and the mimosa yellow butterflies. Female large orange sulphur butterflies are often seen hovering around this tree as they look for new leaves to lay their eggs on.

Can be under planted with wild coffee, firebush, coontie, marlberry, wild plumbago, white stopper and other native shrubs. When planted near a window and under planted with these shrubs to hide in, birds will have enough protection to visit a feeder and bird bath. From your window you can easily watch painted buntings, warblers, cardinals, vireos and many other birds. Painted buntings love the young seeds of red salvia which is shade tolerant.

West Indian Cherry
Prunus myrtifolia

West Indian Cherry

The West Indian Cherry is native to the rocklands of Dade County. It normally grows to 35 feet and may reach 50 or more feet over many years.

It is tolerant of average soil yet prefers some organic matter to retain moisture and provide nutrients. Salt air will burn the leaves. West indian cherry is cold tolerant to eastern Martin County.

The white flowers appear in the fall while the berries ripen by the following summer. Both male and female flowers are found separately on the same tree. Wildlife eat the small cherries.

This is a nice specimen tree that is taller than wide. It has light green foliage and masses of sweet smelling white flowers that attract many pollinators.

Use this as an upper story tree and underplant with a background of mixed shrubs like marlberry, wild coffee, stoppers, saw palmetto, locust berry, Florida boxwood or blackbead. Plant the foreground with low plants so that the trunk is not hidden. Try snowberry, coontie, spider lily, or a variety of wildflowers.

Amyris elemifera


Torchwood is native from Central to South Florida and the Keys along the East Coast. This is a Citrus relative and a larval food for both the giant swallowtail butterfly and the Schaus’ swallowtail butterfly. The latter is found in the Florida Keys.

The pea sized black berry has one seed and is a good source of food for birds in January and February. It can tolerate light frost and drought once established. The new trifoliate leaves are reddish, turning dark green and glossy at maturity.

Torchwood makes a great, free standing specimen in the front yard or can be mixed with other coastal shrubs. It goes well with Lignum Vitae, Bahama strongback, myrtle of the river, spicewood, gumbo limbo or most hammock species if given enough room to grow. Quailberry, beach Creeper and Coontie make beautiful groundcovers that will show off torchwood..

Sweetbay Magnolia
Magnolia virginiana

Sweetbay Magnolia

Sweetbay magnolia is a beautiful, smooth, white barked tree with fragrant six inch white flowers followed by red fleshy seeds dangling from a cone.

Sweetbay magnolia is found along the edge of marshes in tree islands and other moist, raised ground high in organic  matter.  It needs moisture, yet will die if flooded for more than a few days.

This tall tree will form a colony by suckering and makes a great screen while young.  The trees will become 40 feet tall and seem to do well on the edge of ponds or lakes where organic matter tends to accumulate.  Under plant with ferns like the giant leather, marsh or swamp fern, and shrubs including wild coffee, marlberry, virginia willow, dahoon holly or pond apple.  Cypress and red maple look nice nearby.

Sweetbay magnolia is the larval food of the Eastern Tiger Swallowtail and will attract this butterfly to unexpected areas like eastern Palm Beach County.
The seed source should be local and the soil acidic, fertile and moist. Add fertilizer with iron if the leaves turn yellow.

South Florida Slash Pine
Pinus elliotii var. densa

South Florida Slash Pine

From the mid peninsula to the Florida Keys, South Florida slash pine was the dominant tree in South Florida before the arrival Europeans . Not to be confused with the North Florida variety which does poorly in South Florida soils and climate.

It is able to grow in soils from periodically wet to very dry and is tolerant of moderate salt air when planted behind coastal trees. The tap root makes this an extremely drought tolerant tree.

Although hurricanes have damaged trees that were weakened by over watering, most naturally occurring trees tolerated the high winds with minimal damage.

The leaves, which come in 2’s and 3’s, can be up to 12 inches long and give the young plants a bushy appearance. Many insects feed on the foliage and seeds or live in the bark and dead wood. These insects provide food for many bird species, especially woodpeckers and warblers. The cones are filled with oblong, lental sized seeds which are food for birds and squirrels.

Every yard in South Florida should have at least one of these trees in it. This would recreate the habitat that supports much of our wildlife and which enables birds to move through the area without being exposed to predators. Even a dead pine provides nest sites for woodpeckers, osprey, and other creatures.

Under plant with saw palmetto, coontie, beauty berry, andropogon grasses and other native grasses or just let the needles fall on bare ground. If you must have lawn grass under this tree, do not water or you will weaken and possibly kill your pines. The soil is moister and shaded under the pines so watering should not be needed. Do not bag the clippings as they add organic matter to the soil. Try to spread the needles under the tree so you don’t have to drive the mower over the trees’ roots.

Imagine our communities connected by slash pines, broken by areas of various types of hammocks (oak, coastal, wetland) and cypress domes, or expanses of native grasses and wildflowers.

Restoring these habitats would result in an increase in our bird populations. And no more worrying about water use or salt water intrusion or pollution of our aquifer by lawn chemicals. We could enjoy quiet summer months with the lawn mowers, weed eaters etc. sitting idle.

Colubrina elliptica


With a beautiful trunk, plated with chunks of orange – brown bark and a height of only 20 to 40 feet, soldierwood is one of the most interesting medium sized trees to plant near a home. When mixed with gumbo limbo, Simpson stopper and other plants with exfoliating bark, the effect is enchanting.

This endangered tree is found only in the Upper Keys and Biscayne National Park. It is not salt tolerant yet is very drought tolerant.

The tiny seeds of soldierwood make a soft popping sound as they explode from their quarter inch round pod. Stand under a tree in late summer and listen to the sound as the pods heat in the sun and the seeds are ejected.

Although not a berry producing tree, the bark hides insects for the birds to find. The 4 inch light green leaves glow in the light. Try a closely spaced stand of soldierwood mixed with willow bustic, pigeon plum, gumbo limbo, wild tamarind, white stopper, milkbark and if you dare, poisonwood for the look of the dark forests of the Florida Keys.

Satin Leaf
Chrysophyllum oliviforme

Satin Leaf

The shiny, dark green upper leaf surfaces and rusty undersides of satin leaf will dazzle you from below as they shimmer in the wind. Birds are easy to observe as they move through the evenly spaced branches while eating the olive sized fruit. This is edible and contains enough chicle to accumulate into a ball of gum after placing several in your mouth and spitting out the pits.

Hammocks with rich organic soil are the natural home to satin leaf, which can reach up to 50 feet in height. It can survive some cold, yet freezing temperatures may kill it to the ground. Shoots will sprout from the roots and a new leader can then be selected.

Find a protected location to plant and mix with other hammock trees like paradise tree, mastic, lancewood, all of the stoppers and an understory of wild coffee, coontie, wild plumbago, beautyberry and basket grass.