Thursday, February 21, 2013

Tree Thursday - Jamaican Dogwood

Jamaican Dogwood (or Fish Poison, Fish Fuddle)
Piscidia piscipula

Although this tree is rarely used in landscaping, it is a South Florida and West Indies native.  At one time there was a street lined with Jamaican Dogwoods in Hollywood, Florida, but I doubt it is still there. In Fort Lauderdale, I only know of a small one in Snyder Park.  As the common names, Fish Poison and Fish Fuddle, suggests there is an extract from the tree that sedates fish.  Native Americans learned that you could throw branches and leaves from the tree in the water and this would stun the fish and you could then catch them by hand.  Don’t get any ideas because it is now against the law to use the extract to catch fish in Florida.   If you do a search on the web for Jamaican Dogwood, you’ll find that the extract is now used in many herbal products with claims of lots of health and therapeutic uses, including the treatment of migraines. 

The Jamaican Dogwood usually grows along the coast in well drained soils.  The typical height is about 40 feet tall.  The tree does have fragrant pea-like white and lavender flowers that are displayed on stalks between the old and new leaves in the spring.  The tree is a larval host and nectar source for the Hammock Skipper butterfly.   The wood is close-grained, heavy, hard, durable, and holds up well against moisture and rot. As a result of these properties, the wood is known as a good wood carving material and is used to make boat timbers, fence posts, and poles.

Growth Rate:                     Fast
Salt Tolerance:                  High
Drought Tolerance:         High