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Common torchwood, Sea torchwood
Amyris elemifera

Copyright by: Keith J. Buttry, 2014
Palm Beach County, Florida. Expand

General Landscape Uses: An attractive small specimen tree for coastal locations. Also useful in buffer plantings.

Ecological Restoration Notes: An occasional element of coastal hammocks, especially along the edges.

Availability: Grown by one or two native plant nurseries in South Florida. Available in Miami at Pro Native Consulting (786-488-3101).

Description: Slender small tree or large shrub with a rounded crown comprising a few slim branches. Trunks slender, 3-5 inches in diameter or sometimes more. Leaves shiny, thin to leathery, 3-5 foliate, 1-3 inches long; aromatic when crushed. Bark pale gray brown, thin and smooth, roughened by small patches of exfoliating bark.

Dimensions: Typically 10-15 feet in height; to 22 feet in South Florida

Growth Rate: Very slow to slow.

Range: Monroe County Keys north along the east coast to Flagler County; West Indies, Mexico and Central America. For a digitized image of Elbert Little's Florida range map, visit the Exploring Florida website.

Plant Map Map of select IRC data from peninsular Florida.

 Map of suggested ZIP codes from South Florida north to southern Brevard, Osceola, Polk, and Pasco counties.

 Map of ZIP codes with habitat recommendations from the Monroe County Keys north to Martin and Charlotte counties.

Habitats: Coastal hammocks and thickets.

Soils: Moist, well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with humusy top layer.

Nutritional Requirements: Moderate to high; grows best with some organic content and may languish in nutrient poor soils.

Salt Water Tolerance: Low; does not tolerate long-term flooding by salt or brackish water.

Salt Wind Tolerance: Moderate; grows near salt water, but is protected from direct salt spray by other vegetation.

Drought Tolerance: Moderate; generally requires moist soils, but tolerant of short periods of drought once established.

Light Requirements: Full sun to light shade.

Flower Color: Whitish.

Flower Characteristics: Semi-showy; tiny on branched clusters.

Flowering Season: All year; peak spring-fall.

Fruit: Purplish to black drupe, 1/4" in diameter. Aromatic. Edible, with an agreeable flavor. The seeds are solitary, pale brown.

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and moderate amounts of cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), Schaus' swallowtail (Papilio aristodemus ponceanus) and other butterflies. Flowers attracts a wide variety of pollinators. The fruit is eaten by birds and small mammals.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed, although with some difficulty.

References: Schaefer & Tanner 1997

Comments: The mature wood is hard, close-grained, and light orange colored. The green wood has been used to make torches. The twigs are burned as incense.

Copyright by: Keith J. Buttry, 2014
Palm Beach County, Florida. Expand

Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer

Other data on Amyris elemifera available from:

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