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What’s Bloomin In Paradise: Apple Blossom Cassia (Cassia javanica)

By Staff | May 19, 2011


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. Wispy, feathery leaves all over, that enhance the beauty of the blooms.

The smooth trunk is cement gray with substantial girth. Seedpods 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 are 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. I can’t help but notice the long, skinny brown seedpods all over that are about 10 to 15 inches in length. These seedpods 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. Lots 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. The caterpillars are a curiosity to watch. They are a green color when they consume the green leaves and yellow when their choice of food is the yellow flowers.

You can truly say, “They are what they eat!”

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 non stop spring to summer.

I detect a slight fragrance from the clusters of flowers 10 to 12 inches long, but nothing strong or recognizable. It’s is the flowers that attract our pollinators to the sweet nectar. The tiny center florets are dark crimson red with bright yellow filaments. The petals of the flowers are champagne pink, which change to cotton candy pink and last stage of color change is creamy white.

So all over the tree the flowers are in different color stages. This color combo gave it its name apple blossom, since it brings back memories of the apple orchards we left up north.

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.

Cons: Daily clean up – Non Native status – Re think/tolerate caterpillars and nibbled leaves – You may have an cravings to eat more apples – 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!