The ripe orange drupes [fruits] are eaten raw or made into jelly. Do not eat the seeds though. Bees make a light-colored honey from the nectar of the fragrant flowers. The rough leaves, and boy, are they rough, have been used to polish metal. The light brown wood is hard, heavy, and strong, and is used to make fence posts, axe handles, etc. This is anything but a common tree in warmer parts of Florida. Look for it at botanical gardens and in the gardens of rare plant collectors. Possum trot Nursery in Homestead has some lovely ones, as does the TREC Station nearby. Birds, including Mockingbirds, as well as Coyotes, consume the fruits.
CAUTION: Do not eat the seeds within the small edible fruits. Be sure to spit them out.
EDIBLE FRUITS: The drupes, which usually contain two seeds, have pulp that is edible to humans. Fruits have been described as sweet and delicious. Eaten raw or made into preserves.
BEE ATTRACTANT: A great attractant, honeybees frequent the flowers for nectar. The honey produced is light-colored.
USEFUL LEAVES: The upper surface of the leaves are extremely rough, being covered with tiny mineralized disks which bear short, barbed, bristly hairs, much like sandpaper, and are used for sanding purposes, including for sanding steel.
USEFUL WOOD: The light brown wood is heavy, hard and strong and has traditionally been used for fence posts, axles, tool handles, wheels, spokes, and yokes.
WILDLIFE: Fruits are eaten by birds, including the Clay-Colored Thrush that inhabits southern Texas, Mexico, and areas southward. Also, Red-Crowned Parrots, Green Parakeets, Clay-Colred Robins, Thrashers, Mockingbirds and Chachalacas. Leaves are the sole food source of the Texas Tortoise Beetle, Coptocycla texana. Coyotes also eat the ripe fruits. Deer browse the leaves.
NATIVE TO: Dry hillsides of Eastern Mexico and southern Texas. It reaches tree size in moist soils of riparian zones & floodplains. An important component of the evergreen forest remnants along the lower Rio Grande valley.
DESCRIPTION: A semi-evergreen shrub.
- HEIGHT: 20-50 feet tall.
- TRUNK: one to two feet in diameter. Often with multiple trunks or suckering.
- LEAVES: Dark green, 1-2 inches wide, 2-4 inches long, very rough on the upper surface.
- FLOWERS: White, abundant, fragrant.
- FRUITS: Small, bright yellow-orange.
- LIFESPAN: At least 50 years.
CULTURE: Hardy and drought tolerant. Leaves turn black after a hard frost. A popular ornamental tree in Texas. Needs plenty of water when first establishing.
- PROPAGATION: Root from young wood, suckers, or softwood cuttings of current year’s growth, as well as stratified in moisture and cold temperature-exposed seeds.
RELATED SPECIES: I grow a small shrub, Ehretia microphylla, known as Fujian Tea, from which I make a dried leaf tea.
Texas Tree ID – TAMU