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Firebush
Hamelia patens
Rubiaceae


General Landscape Uses:

Accent or specimen shrub. Buffer plantings.

Ecological Restoration Notes:

Widespread but rarely abundant in tree fall gaps and along the edges of hammocks. Perhpaps overused in ecological restoration plantings.
Availability:
Widely cultivated.
Available at Native Choice Nursery 561-756-4370
Description:
Large shrub or small tree with rounded crown from weak, easily broken branches, usually on multiple trunks. Bark dark brown. Leaves light to dark green with reddish blotches and veins, 2-6 inches long.
Dimensions:
About 10-12 feet in height, or sometimes more. Often as broad as tall.
Growth Rate:
Fast.
Range:
Monroe County Keys north to Volusia, Marion and Pasco counties; Bermuda, West Indies, Mexico, Central America and South America. Rare in the Monroe County Keys and very rare or absent in the middle Keys.
Habitats:
Hammocks and thickets.
Soils:
Moist, well-drained sandy or limestone soils, with humusy top layer.
Nutritional Requirements:
Moderate; can grow in nutrient poor soils, but needs some organic content to thrive.
Salt Water Tolerance:
Low; does not tolerate lonog-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 to high; plants growing in extremely dry soils may die during extended periods of drought.
Light Requirements:
Full sun.
Flower Color:
Red to reddish-orange.
Flower Characteristics:
Showy tubular flowers, about 1" long, in terminal and axillary clusters.
Flowering Season:
All year.
Fruit:
Rounded red to purplish-black juicy berries.
Wildlife and Ecology:
Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Larval host plant for the pluto sphinx (Xylophanes pluto) moth. Nectar plant for black swallowtail (Papilio polyxenes), statira sulphur (Phoebis statira) and other butterflies, hummingbirds, bees and other insects; a small, iridescent-green halictid bee (Augochlora pura) is one of the more effective pollinators. Birds, including mockingbirds and catbirds, eat the fruits.
Horticultural Notes:
Can be grown from de-pulped seed and from cuttings.
Comments:
Firebush is one of the best bird and butterfly shrubs in South Florida. It recruits readily from seed in the garden but is not a pest. An exotic relative, H. patens var. glabra, with yellowish-red flowers and mostly hairless leaves, is commonly sold is South Florida. It is beginning to naturalize and poses a hybridization threat to our native firebush. For a review of "The Hamelia Mess" by Roger Hammer, visit the Florida Association of Native Nurseries website.


 


George D. Gann
Roger L. Hammer
Keith A. Bradley
Melissa E. Abdo
George D. Gann
Shilrey Denton
Shilrey Denton