Lignum vitae
Guaiacum sanctum

Lignum Vitae

Native to and endangered in the Florida Keys, lignum vitae is a small tree with very hard wood that withstands hurricanes easily.  The growth is more wide than tall and can reach 20 or more feet overall.

The one inch deep blue flowers are followed by a one inch yellow round pod that contains black seeds covered by a deep red aril. These dangle from the pod when ripe. The whole plant can be covered in red and yellow at this time. The lyside sulphur butterfly larvals on this plant and catbirds eat the fruit.

Lignum vitae can grow in dry soils with some organic matter up to Palm Beach County and will tolerate some salt air, yet no salt water flooding.  It is surprisingly tolerant of cold air down to near freezing.

Lignum vitae has a trunk like a bonsai and can live for hundreds of years.  The wood is full of resin and was once used for the bearings of boat propeller shafts due to its self lubricating properties.  Growth rate is about two feet a year.