Description: Large shrub or small tree with an irregular crown. Trunks short, from which arise many branches. Bark gray with shallow fissures. Leaves compound, the leaflets about 2 inches long.
Dimensions: Typically 8-15 feet in height; to 19 feet in South Florida. Often much broader than tall.
Growth Rate: Moderate.
Monroe County Keys north along the coasts to Martin and Lee counties; Bahamas, Cuba, Mexico and Central America. Rare and scattered in Collier and Lee counties where cat's-claw (P. unguis-cati) is more common.
Fruit: Reddish-brown coiled pod (legume) splitting open to expose black seeds with a red aril.
Wildlife and Ecology: Provides food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for cassius blue (Leptotes cassius theonus), large orange sulphur (Phoebis agarithe), and Miami blue (Cyclargus thomasi bethunebakeri) butterflies. Nectar plant for cassius blue, Florida duskywing (Ephyriades brunneus), Florida white (Appias drusilla), giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes), great southern white (Ascia monuste), hammock skipper (Polygonus leo), large orange sulphur, mangrove skipper (Phocides pigmalion), Miami blue, Palatka skipper (Euphyes pilatka), southern broken-dash (Wallengrenia otho), three-spotted skipper (Cymaenes tripunctus), twin-spot skipper (Oligorio maculata) and other butterflies. Birds eat the bightly-colored arils.
Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed removed from the aril. Place seed on top of soil and just cover. Place container in light shade.
References: Hammer 2004
Comments: Plants in the Florida Keys typically have pink flowers, while those on the mainland are white. It is listed as threatened by the state of Florida. See also the Florida Wildflower Foundation's Flower Friday page.
Copyright by: George D. Gann, 2013 In habitat, Everglades National Park, Key Largo, Florida
Copyright by: Keith A. Bradley
Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer
Copyright by: James Johnson, 2014 In habitat, John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park, Monroe County, Florida Expand