|Bob Benaim's Nursery||
Gumbo-limbo is a tropical tree
that is native to the southeastern United States. It adapts to a variety of
habitats, from dry to moist, and is fairly salt-tolerant. It is also considered one of the most wind-tolerant
trees in south Florida and is recommended as a good, hurricane-resistant species.
Gumbo-limbo is planted for shade and ornamental use on backyard patios, or along streets and highways.
It readily sprouts from branches stuck into the ground and is sometimes used to plant natural, living fences.
The gummy, turpentine-scented resin has been used in the West Indies for making glue, varnish, liniments,
and as a coating for canoes. The aromatic sap is also used as a treatment for gout, while the leaves are
brewed into a medicinal tea. The light, soft, spongy wood is used for fence posts that have been known
to take root in the ground and grow! Other small wood products such as matchsticks, toothpicks, charcoal,
boxes, crates, and interior trim have also been made from gumbo-limbo.
Some birds, including mockingbirds and vireos, regularly consume the deep red fruits of gumbo-limbo
during the summer and fall months.
Gumbo-limbo ranges from Cape
Canaveral to southern Florida, including the Keys. It is also native to the
West Indies, tropical Mexico, Guatemala, and northern South America.
is a large, tardily deciduous tree that grows from 50' to 60'
tall with stout, massive branches and a spreading, rounded crown.
leaves are alternately arranged, odd pinnately compound with 3 to 9
(mostly 5 to 7) leaflets that are 2" to 3" long by 1" to
2" wide. The oblong
to ovate leaves have leathery, bright green upper surfaces and are paler underneath. Leaflets have unequal bases and long, tapering leaf tips.
The leaf margins are entire or slightly wavy.
fruit is a dark red, football-shaped drupe, about 1/3" long. It is
leathery with 3 angled sides that split along the suture lines at
maturity to release a triangular seed.
bark is light reddish-brown, thin, papery, and scaly like yellow
birch. It has a smooth, oily look and peels off in sheets to reveal a
greenish-brown layer beneath.
grows best in sandy, well-drained soils. It is found
in tidewater areas, coastal hammocks, and mixed forests.