Floridian Nature

Learn about Florida's beautiful and unique nature.

Florida Trees: American Beautyberry-Bay Trees
A "tree" as described here is defined as a perennial woody stemmed plant, generally having a single main stem (trunk),13 feet tall or more at maturity. The term "shrub" denotes a woody stemmed plant usually having multiple stems (trunks) that never or rarely exceed 13 feet in height. While in some cases a plant that usually grows as a tree may assume a shrub-like habit of growth the opposite is also true, some shrubs will occasionally attain a trees stature. We have listed our trees and shrubs alphabetically by their common name. All trees of the same type are listed together (such as all oak trees or all mangrove trees) With each tree or shrub we have added a photograph for easy identification, along with a brief description and the scientific name of the tree.

American Beautyberry bush native to FloridaAmerican Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana L.)- Sometimes called the French mulberry, the American beautyberry inhabits relatively open, well drained, rich woodlands and dry hammocks, this native Floridian bush is common in Central Florida. American beautyberry is an outstanding deciduous shrub that grows 6-8 ft  tall with a loose, open form and outward pointing branches. This shrub makes a coarse appearance large toothed green to yellow-green leaves 6-8 inches long and pubescent beneath. In springtime, tiny lilac flowers appear. These are held in clusters called cymes that arise from the leaf axils (where the leaf joins the stem). By autumn the flowers give rise to berrylike 1/4 inch drupes in striking metallic shades of magenta and violet in the fall. The beautyberries are packed tightly together in clusters that encircle the stem.

American Persimmon Tree in the fallAmerican Persimmon
(Diospyros virginiana) - The genus name for the American Persimmon means "Fruit of the Gods". This is a reference to the delicious golden-orange fruits that often hang on the tree after the leaves drop in autumn. When ripe, these fruits are very sweet. The American Persimmon can make an attractive mid-size yard tree. The large drooping leaves give it a soft look, and the dark checkered bark of mature trees provides winter interest. The bell-shaped pistillate flowers are an appealing creamy-yellow, very fragrant, and an excellent nectar source for honeybees. The tree is tough and adaptable, grows rapidly, and its deep tap root gives it good drought resistance. It can survive in shade, but grows and fruits best in sun.

american Sycamore tree, native to FloridaAmerican Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis) - Sometimes called the American Planetree, the American Sycamore is a massive tree reaching 75 to 90 feet in height, has a rapid growth rate, and tolerates wet and compacted soil. This deciduous tree has a smooth almost white bark when mature. The bark will flake off in irregular thin pieces which give American Sycamore trees an impressive mottled appearance. Sycamore trees have light green colored leaves that turn golden in the fall providing contrasting fall color. The American Sycamore has moderate water requirements and exhibits a moderate tolerance to salt and alkali soils. It is a very popular city tree for adverse urban conditions and soils. The sycamore grows best in zones 4 through 7, but there are reports of it growing as far north as Minnesota and as far south as Palm Beach, Florida.

loblolly bay tree, native to central and northernl FloridaBay Trees- The Loblolly Bay, Swamp Bay, and Sweet Bay are all Florida native.  Despite their names, they are not related to each other, but have the same shaped leaves.  The name ‘Bay tree’ comes from the spicy Laurel Bay
Loblolly Bay (Gordonia lasianthus)- Loblolly bay is a handsome, fast growing and short-lived shrub or tree. It grows in shallow swamps and moist depressions of the Atlantic Coastal Plain from North Carolina to central Florida and southern Mississippi. Sometimes loblolly bay is used as an ornamental; however, it has a shallow root system that requires adequate watering and will not cultivate well on dry sites. The bark has been used for tanning leather. Loblolly bay has light, soft, fine-grained, reddish wood that has been used in cabinetwork. Otherwise, loblolly bay has little commercial and wildlife value.

swamp bay tree, native to FloridaSwamp Bay (Persea palustris)-  The Swamp Bay grows to 30-40 tall with a foot-wide trunk but is often shorter in open areas. Often found in wetland thickets and swamps, it can be planted where soils are moist and where natural landscapes are desired.  It will not grow in salty conditions, unlike the so-called Bay oak, which does just fine in coastal areas. The evergreen leaves are glossy, leathery, medium green, and 4-6 inches long.  Crushed leaves give off a spicy fragrance like the European bay and can be used for flavoring stews and spaghetti sauce. In spring small flower clusters appear on long stalks. They can mature into small lustrous blue-black berries with a seedy pit.  These inch sized berries ripen in fall and are enjoyed by birds and other critters.  In the landscape, keep this tree away from sidewalks and driveways to avoid getting bird surprises on windshields or pavement.  Another feature that makes this an important wildlife plant is that some Swallowtail butterfly caterpillars eat Swamp Bay leaves. 

sweet Bay tree, flowering. This tree is native to the state of FloridaSweet Bay (Magnolia virginiana)- Sometimes called the Silver Bay, the Sweet Bay tree is a lesser know cousin of the well known Southern Magnolia. It is a smaller version of the Southern Magnolia, with smaller fragrant flowers.  Cone-like seed capsules with hanging red berries will be produced on this tree. The late springtime flowers of the Sweetbay Magnolia are a delight to the eye in both woods and the Florida Yard. This is another important wildlife tree, as deer and cattle frequently browse on the leaves and twigs.  The fruits provide a good food source many small mammals and wild birds.  They re-sprout from natural fires and can form thickets in natural areas. They are very noticeable in water-logged woodlands.
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