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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Joewood

By Staff | Jun 7, 2012

Plant Subject: Joewood (Jacquinia keyensis)

First impression: Five tiny, ray shaped creamy colored petals, grouped in a circle with 5 even tinier spur shaped petals in-between. Itty bitty flowers group close together in small nosegay clusters. Green, yellow and white pea sized berries are noticeable during flowering. Thick, leathery, obovate moss green leaves are dense and adorn the thick canopy. I notice the twig like appearances of the multi stemmed light gray trunks. These small trees have the appearance of shrubs. The sweet lingering fragrance is unique and identifiable. You won’t get many chances to enjoy this fragrance, in your garden life. Numerous in numbers decades ago, today our dwindling precious plant is protected by conservationists. We welcome you to discover our Joewood, blooming now at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: The Jacquinia genus wood has the interesting characteristic of being fire resistant. They include 35 species, who mostly hail from Central America, but our keyensis variety is a Florida native. Sadly, it is listed as threatened by the state of Florida. It has had a difficult time recovering from all our housing and construction growth. In 1987 our star was proclaimed the official plant for the city of Sanibel. How appropriate for our conservation conscientious island to adopt a plant that is in much need of protection. Bravo! As an important coastal and hammock plant it provides significant food and cover for garden critters. Joewood is evergreen, and can be grown as a densely branched shrub or compact small tree. Left on its own, the mature height is around 10-15 feet tall. Because it is a super slow grower, it takes patience to ever become small tree height. It is one of our regulated plants with many trimming restrictions and rightly so, because it has a natural shape and is low maintenance. The multi trunks are a cement gray color and add lots of contrast to the thick, lovely matte green color leaves. For me, the flowers are the stars with an intoxicating, unique fragrance. I will try to describe it as Jasmine on steroids mixed with vanilla. Super small and star like with 5 petals longer than the 5 in between. Creamy cameo color and densely arranged in a bouquets at the end of branches. So small you would walk right by them, until you take in that whiff of air. Bees adore the flowers nectar and busy their day buzzing back and forth. I began my love of Joewood, with my first plant, which I purchased from the SCCF Native Plant Nursery. Its native status puts it in the easy care and lack of pests/disease category. It’s made for our tropical climate with its drought tolerance and need for full sun. Joewood from days gone have been under used in our tropical landscape. We can bring back the numbers of our star and reward our gardens at the same time. I encourage you to try one, once you fall in love with the fragrance, don’t forget to thank me!

Pros: Oodles of blooms winter and summer – Does well in sandy soil – Likes full sun – Easy to maintain Versatile shrub or tree Salt tolerance Blooming brings in the bees Aaahh the fragrance – Drought tolerant Wood is fire resistant – Need to represent Sanibel with the official plant – Easy care Native.

Cons: Very slow grower Blooming brings in the bees Don’t try to start campfire with wood – Cold sensitive May have to thank Anita!

Conclusion: We can thank many dedicated plant advocates for Joewood! No worries here, we have an abundant collection just waiting for you to discover. Follow your nose to our sweet smelling garden. So many blossoms, so little time in a tropical eye catching garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!