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In The Garden: Wild coffee is a native plant on the wild side

By Staff | Mar 31, 2020


Wild coffee (Psychotria nervosa) is a native ornamental shrub that goes very well in most native landscapes. The plant is found in the higher areas of swampy or wet areas that are seasonally wet and dry.

Its glossy green leaves marked with deep grooves add a nice textured look to a green hedge or border planting. Because of the textured leaf, wild coffee is sometimes referred to as “the plant resembling a gardenia.” In fact, the gardenia and wild coffee actually do belong to the same family, Rubiaceae. Wild coffee will bloom intermittently in spring and summer. The flowers are small, tubular and white and in small clusters about 2 inches to 3 inches wide.

Do not be fooled by the name, wild coffee is not a coffee plant that is edible by humans. It was so named because it does produce red fruit that resemble coffee beans. The fruit are, however, eaten by a large variety of birds including our state bird – the mockingbird – as well as blue jays, catbirds and cardinals throughout the summer and fall seasons. In addition, the small white flowers are attractive to some butterflies.

Wild coffee has an upright growth pattern and is a multi-stem evergreen shrub. You can use it in either sun or shade conditions. Under shaded conditions, it will like have a taller and more sparse shape. In full sun, it will grow out more rounded in shape and more filled it. The plant grows approximately 5-6 feet tall when untended. You can prune them to a more manageable height of 3-4 feet, which makes a nice border hedge or foundation planting.

All in all, wild coffee is a great native plant choice for a variety of sun conditions. It is also moderately salt and drought tolerant. All these great attributes make this plant a good addition to your native landscape.

In The Garden is a joint effort by all at the local garden center, at 3889 Sanibel-Captiva Road, Sanibel. For more information, contact 239-395-5859 or visit www.facebook.com/rswalshinthegarden.