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What’s Blooming in Paradise: Apple blossom Cassia (Cassia javanica)

By Staff | May 27, 2015

Apple blossom Cassia (Cassia javanica). Anita Force Marshall

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. Open up your olfactory to detect a sweet fragrance in the air, very subtle. I can’t help but notice the 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 sun colored 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 your 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 an attractive cement colored grey and super smooth. The seed pods are long, skinny and dark chocolate brown. They have hundreds of seeds encased in them with an oooey gooey, dark liquid that was used for natural dyeing. Bright yellow Sulphur butterflies can be seen fluttering all around our star.

Cassias are their host plants — aka plants on which butterflies lay their eggs — adding to its dimensional beauty. Apple blossom Cassia is a non-native and widely distributed all over Southeast Asia and China. We gardeners rarely see it growing here and it’s the pinky hue that 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. The flowers 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!

Apple blossom Cassia (Cassia javanica). Anita Force Marshall

Pros:

* Huge clusters of flowers with lots of blossoms.

* Drought tolerant.

* Gorgeous when blooming.

* Great host plant.

Apple blossom Cassia (Cassia javanica). Anita Force Marshall

* 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.

Apple blossom Cassia (Cassia javanica). Anita Force Marshall

Cons:

* Daily clean up.

* Non-native status.

* Rethink/tolerate caterpillars and nibbled leaves.

* Loses 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!