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What’s Blooming in Paradise: White Alder (Turnera subulata)

By Staff | Jun 3, 2015

Yellow Alder (Turnera subulata). Anita Force Marshall

First impression: Oodles of miniature buttercups cover this never ending sprawling plant. Five super bright, cameo white with a dark center petals make up each flower that measure around two inches across. The leggy, tentacle-like stems are covered with toothed, 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 never ending flower display even on a rainy day blooming at the Botanical Gardens of the Sanibel Moorings.

Upon further investigation: Cuban Buttercup Bush aka the white variety White Alder is a fabulous garden addition. It is a must have for any butterfly garden, because bees and butterflies love-love-love any nectar from its tasty flowers.

I enjoy watching honey bees, Long tailed Skippers, White Peacocks and Sulphur butterflies hovering, basking and sipping one flower to the next. On sunny days I routinely find them congregating at the Buttercup bushes all day long! Our star is non-native and hails from tropical America. As a member of the Tunera genus, it is identifiable with leaves which contain thymol that 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. This fast grower is multi-stemmed with oval shaped, shiny dark green, rough textured leaves. The five pearl white petals remind me of poppies with the dark purplish brown centers that I remember in fields as a child. They have a wide face, but form a funnel for 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 2LoL!

White Alder (Turnera subulata). Anita Force Marshall

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. Gardeners can be frustrated with its wild and wooly attitude. 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.

White Alder (Turnera subulata). Anita Force Marshall

* Easy to maintain/prune.

* Pollinator attractor.

* Salt tolerance.

* Neighbors will wonder where you got all the white poppies.

* Great for a cottage garden 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.

* Non-native but non-invasive.

* 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, to look gorgeous just for you in our tropical garden in paradise.

Don’t wanna miss this bloomer!