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What's Blooming in Paradise: Apple Blossom

June 1, 2012
Anita Force Marshall , Island Reporter, Captiva Current, Sanibel-Captiva Islander

First impression: Super long flower clusters bursting with bubble gum pink, dark rosy pink, and cream colored flowers. They can be seen at the top of the canopy sticking out like wild hairs. Olfactory is detecting a sweet fragrance in the air, very subtle. I can't help but notice, wispy, feathery leaves all over, that enhance the beauty of the blooms. The trunk is smooth and cement gray with substantial girth. Seed pods are dark chocolate brown and resemble long cigars. Lots of large and small Sulphur butterflies fluttering all around it. Unique, Exotic, and rarely seen here in paradise - in full fabulous bloom at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: The Cassia genus includes many of our drop dead gorgeous flowering trees. Most people associate the Cassia name with yellow blossoms. But, Cassias have among 30 different species which can bloom yellow, pink or red. The javanica species is a pink bloomer that can reach a mature height of 50 feet. They thrive in tropical weather, are drought tolerant and do well in full sun. This large tree has a natural spreading crown which from a distance draws my eye to it. Even without blossoms, it's an attractive tree with feathery fern green pinnate leaves contrasting the light colored bark. The trunk is lovely cement colored grey and very smooth. The seed pods resemble oversized cigars,long, skinny and dark chocolate brown. These seed pods have hundreds of seed encased in them. Oooey gooey dark liquid is inside that incubates the seeds. This liquid was and is used in natural dyeing. Oodles of large and small bright yellow Sulphur butterflies fluttering all around it. Cassias are their host plants-- aka plants on which butterflies lay their eggs--adding to its dimensional beauty. I discover that the Apple blossom Cassia is a non native and widely distributed all over Southeast Asia and China. We gardeners rarely see it growing here, the pinky hue makes this Cassia very unique! I have had many phone calls from plant collectors who go gaga over our rare beauty. It blooms nonstop for about 2-3 months. I detect a slight fragrance from the clusters of flowers 10-12 inches long, but nothing strong or recognizable. It is the flowers that attract our pollinators to the sweet nectar. They are numerous and can number in the thousands. The tiny center florets are dark crimson red with bright yellow filaments. The petals of the flowers are champagne pinks, cotton candy pinks and creamy whites. This color combo gave it its name apple blossom, since it brings back memories of the apple orchards we left up north. Yummmm!

Pros: Huge clusters of flowers with lots of blossoms - Drought tolerant - Gorgeous when blooming Great host plant - Sulphur butterflies all around - Easy to maintain/prune - You can start your own apple blossom festival Blooming brings in the pollinators - You may have an cravings to eat more apples.

Article Photos

Cons: Daily clean up - Non Native status - Re think/tolerate caterpillars and nibbled leaves Looses limbs in strong winds Neighbors will be wondering where the apples are.

Conclusion: How do you like them apples? Apple Blossom Cassia that is -- a head bobbing, crowd gathering, don't have to wait till fall flowering tree in that eye catching garden location.

Don't wanna miss this bloomer!

 
 

 

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