This month’s find is a rare tree that is endemic to Florida. It only grows in the coastal hammocks of Lee, Monroe, and Miami-Dade Counties. The largeleaf geigertree, Cordia sebestena, grows from an erect single trunk to a height of about 15 feet. The tree’s multi branches tend to droop downward. Leaves are simple and alternate on the branches. Leaves are large -- 7” long and 5” inches wide. The shape is ovate to lanceolate and the color is a dark green. The margin is entire. The eaves are hairy on top and below. Touching the leaf will feel like a light sand paper.
The flowers grow in clusters in the leaf axils at the tips of the branches. The pedicles are attached to a green tubes supporting corollas with five petals and five petal like sepals. Flower color varies from a dark orange to a scarlet red. The inflorescence are clusters of umbels. The fruit is a 2” long pea pod that is fragrant and edible. Blooming occurs spring to fall.
C. sebestena is a perfect tree for this area. It is a relatively small tree and it is salt tolerant. It is easily adaptable to our salty sands. I have one in my front yard and my next door neighbor has one.
NOTE: There is some uncertainty about the nativity of this tree. The USF Florida Plant Atlas lists this tree as non-native and some municipalities do not allow it to count toward the native tree count for permitting. However, after listening to the arguments in both directions, The Coccoloba Chapter is comfortable in accepting this tree a native.
by Jim Rodwell