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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Yellow Alder (Turnera ulmifolia)

By Staff | Nov 19, 2014

First impression: Oodles of miniature buttercups cover this never ending sprawling plant. Five super bright, sunny yellow petals make up each flower that measure around 2 inches across. Its leggy, tentacle-like stems are covered with oval shaped shiny green leaves. This profusion of flowers is dramatic and noticeable covering a large area.

I detect a slight aromatic fragrance, and see butterflies and pollinators all around. You can see this sunshine flower display even on a cloudy day blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Buttercup Bush aka Yellow Alder is a fabulous garden addition. It is a must have plant for any butterfly garden. Bees and butterflies love-love-love any nectar from its tasty little flowers. I enjoy watching honey bees, Long tailed Skippers, White Peacocks and Sulphur butterflies hovering, basking and sipping on one flower to the next.

On sunny days I routinely find them congregating at the Buttercup bushes all day long! Our star is nonnative and hails from Tropical America. As a member of the Tunera genus, it is identifiable with leaves which contain thymol which emits a woody aroma when crushed. Buttercup bush is one tough plant, and is known for its salt tolerance in coastal areas. It does well in a wide variety of soils and sand, but cannot tolerate wet feet. It will grow up to 1-3 feet tall and really wide (up to 6 feet), with an erect to sprawling type manner.

As it grows, its long, slender stems wave in the air loaded with flowers. The five cadmium yellow petals remind me of buttercups that I saw in fields as a child. They have a wide face, but form a funnel in the center with filaments in a matching yellow color. The flowers close up at night and open when the sun hits them. This opening and closing gave them several nicknames of Bankers Bush and Politicians Flower because the flowers open at 10 and close by 2 — LOL!

Flowers turn to tiny insignificant fruits, which turn to seed and will re-seed on their own. I find new plants all over, and edit accordingly. Simultaneously, fruit, flower and seed occur all year round.

I encourage you to include Yellow Alder in your garden. It started its life as a weed in my garden until I noticed it bloomed all day long. Eureka, I shaped and groomed it and now love it in the garden. You can obtain our star in either sunny yellow (Turnera ulmifolia) or white (Turnera subulata). Its hearty status puts it in the easy nature and lack of pests/disease category. It’s made for our tropical climate with its drought tolerance and need for full sun. Do you have a hard to grow anything sunny spot-try planting our star and see what happens!


Does well in sandy soil

Likes full sun

Easy to maintain/prune

Pollinator attractor

Salt tolerance

Neighbors will wonder where you got all the buttercups

Great for a cottagegarden look

Gives garden a happy look

Drought tolerant

Easy care

Flowers all year round

Wildlife love it

Great for hard to grow coastal areas.


Can get leggy

Fast grower

May get sudden cravings for butter

Pollinator attractor

Nonnative but noninvasive

Can be finicky and not sprawl where you want it to

Have to edit babies.

Conclusion: Put on the snooze alarm, you don’t have to get up early to enjoy these fluttering flowers of sunshine. They really enjoy their beauty sleep and look gorgeous just for you in our tropical garden in paradise.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!