PLANT OF THE WEEK: Green and Silver Buttonwood

By on January 18, 2012.

Conocarpus erectus – A member of the Combretaceae family the buttonwood trees are found throughout southern Florida  on the outer edges of mangrove and estuarine environment. They are well suited to a variety of sandy soils and can withstand drought spells, wet soils and harsh conditions. Two varieties exist as natives in Florida, the Green Buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus and Silver Buttonwood, Conocarpus erectus var. sericeus

Size/Habit/Lifetime:  Can grow to 50 feet tall with a 30 foot spread, more commonly seen as  large shrub 6-15 ft tall. Form can be single leader or multi trunked depending on trimming practices. Medium texture with rather low branching, spreading to a rounded crown with age.

Culture:  Zones 10-11. May be found as far north as Tampa  on the west  coast and Merrit Island on the east coast of Florida. Prefers sunny location, tolerant of partial shade but can become leggy. Highly tolerant of salt.


Leaf/Stem/Trunk: Leaves are alterate, simple, leathery 1 to 4 in. long, half as wide.  Apices are pointed at tips. Silver variety exhibits dense silvery gray pubescence above and below. Stems are resistant to breakage and slightly droopy in length. Naturally grows as a large, dense shrub but many nurseries offer large specimens with multi trunks or single leaders.

Flower/Fruit: Flowers are tiny and green on small conelike structures. Giving them the name buttonwood. Seeds are scales that scatter from cone.

Use:  Very suitable to a variety of situations. Can be a trimmed hedge from 3 feet to 20 feet. Used in background  or foreground of screening layers.  Can be planted as a shade trees in parking lots, medians or boulevards.

Notable Fact:  The dense wood is slow burning and often used for smokers to cook with.

Citations

The Trees of Florida. Gil Nelson, Pineapple Press

Florida, My Eden. Frederic B. Streasau, Florida Classics Library