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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Florida Privet (Forestiera segregata)

By Staff | May 6, 2015

Florida Privet (Forestiera segregata). Anita Force Marshall

First impression: Blueberry colored fruit shaped like miniature olives makes this plant great for a garden “wow” factor. Flowers are tiny but sweet smelling and were a prelude to this bountiful fruit. Birds love the berries, and can be seen hopping from one branch to another. The small olives are tasty and juicy only to our backyard critters, hence the nickname Wild Olive. Just perfect for us to visually adore, Tuscany here we come in full fruiting at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Our star is one of my favorite native plants. I began my love of Wild Olive with my first plant I purchased from the SCCF Native Plant Nursery. Its native status puts it in the easy nature and lack of pests/disease category. Its gorgeous small fruit starts out olive green then ripens to a blueberry-black color. The berries resemble shrunken olives and are clustered all over the branches.

The tiny greenish yellow flower before the fruits has a soft memorable fragrance. It’s versatile in your garden, because of its tiny leaves which can be left to grow natural, hedged low, or groomed into a tree-like specimen. It can be planted alone or grouped together, mature height is 10-15 feet and just as wide. A true survivor for our tropical gardens will take damp or dry soil, partial shade to full sun, and is salt tolerant.

I encourage you to try this for plant borders and natural fences. Its dense growth habit lends itself to privacy with a wonderful display of color and wildlife friendliness. Wild Olive is a great food source for birds, butterflies, a huge variety of pollinators.

I enjoy watching our garden birds hop from twig to twig. The small warblers are attracted to the insects that hover around the flowers. The mockingbirds, cardinals, blue jays, thrashers, and catbirds love the berries. Its thicket-like quality makes a great area to hide from predators. I have even discovered many birds nesting in our Wild Olives. Nests fit very nicely in the groupings of shrubs. Closely grouped shrubs will offer prospective parents plenty of support and multiple exits and entrances to confuse. When their food source is available and nearby, you will be rewarded with oodles of unscripted backyard arias and ballads.

Florida Privet (Forestiera segregata). Anita Force Marshall

Pros :

* Evergreen.

* Drought tolerant.

* Attractive to wildlife.

* Fast growing.

Florida Privet (Forestiera segregata). Anita Force Marshall

* Native status.

* Can be shaped into anything.

* Great for bonsai.

* Must have for birds.

* Everyone needs at least one.

* Berries bring on the choruses.

Cons:

* May tire of telling neighbors please don’t eat the olives.

Conclusion: Ah, mama miareminds me a little bit of the old country, transported to our tropical eye-catching garden.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!