Wild South Florida — Paradise Tree
 
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Paradise Tree
paradisetree  

We're not quite sure how paradisetree, Simarousa glauca, got its name, other than the fact that it only grows in Florida among the 50 states, and of course Florida is paradise (except during hurricane season. Or when you're commuting on I-95). In all seriousness, paradisetree is beautiful, especially the young, red-tinged leaves (seen in the photo on the left and bottom right). The tree itself can grow as tall as 60 feet or more in South Florida, more typically 30

paradisetree flowers

 

 
paradisetree flowers

feet to 50 feet. The leaves are compound, as long as 16 inches, with leaflets that are three inches long, arranged alternately along the stem. Paradisetree blooms in the spring, with clusters of small, yellow flowers that produce a red fruit about the size and shape of an olive that turns dark purple or black when ripe. The name can be spelled paradise tree, or paradise-tree. It's also called bitterwood and dysentery bark. However you spell it, or whatever yu call it, paradisetree is the source of a compound called glaucarubin that has been used to treat amebic dysentery. There is some research suggesting that it might be useful as an anti-cancer drug. There is no doubt, however, that paradisetree is useful in landscaping, either as an accent or as a shade tree, and it is available at nurseries in the region. The folks at the University of Florida, however, note that paradisetree does have shallow roots that could create problems for mowers. Paradisetree grows as far north as Brevard County in Florida, and throughout the Caribbean, Mexico and Central America. We photographed these trees at Green Cay Nature Center in Boynton Beach.

paradisetree leaf
paradisetree florida United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) distribution maps for paradisetree. paradisetree u.s.
 
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