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Inkwood, Butterbough
Exothea paniculata

Copyright by: George D. Gann
In habitat, Everglades National Park, Florida

General Landscape Uses: An excellent accent tree for residential and commercial landscapes, especially along the coast. Also useful in buffer plantings.

Ecological Restoration Notes: A relatively common subcanopy or canopy tree in rockland and coastal hammocks.

Availability: Native plant nurseries.

Description: Medium tree with tall trunks and a dense crown composed of slender upright branches. Trunks 6-15 inches in diameter. Bark reddish-brown, mottled, thin, separating into large scales and covered with breathing pores (lenticels). Leaves compound, leaflets 2-6, usually 4, firm, dark green and shiny above, 2-5 inches long.

Dimensions: Typically 25-35 feet in height; to 45 feet in South Florida. Taller than broad, except when young when the plant can be quite bushy.

Growth Rate: Moderate to slow.

Range: Monroe County Keys north mostly along the coast to Collier and Volusia counties; 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: Hammocks.

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: Light shade to full sun.

Flower Color: White, with an orange disk in the center.

Flower Characteristics: Semi-showy. Fragrant. Dioecious, with male and female flowers on different plants, or polygamodioecious, with a few flowers of the opposite sex or bisexual flowers on the same plant.

Flowering Season: Winter-summer; peak in spring.

Fruit: Orange or reddish-brown 1/2" wide berry turning dark purple when ripe. Summer to fall.

Wildlife and Ecology: Provides significant food and cover for wildlife. Attracts pollinators and fruit-eating birds.

Horticultural Notes: Can be grown from seed with some difficulty, but seedlings establish well under parent plants. Seedlings can be transplanted without difficulty, but roots are often slow to establish and staking may be necessary. Best grown in light shade while young.

References: Schaefer & Tanner 1997

Comments: An attractive medium tree with dense foliage maintained close to the ground for many years. The wood is very hard, heavy, and durable and much used for crafts and construction. The bark and berries are used to make a homemade ink-like substance in the West Indies. See also the Florida Wildflower Foundation's Flower Friday page.

Copyright by: George D. Gann
In habitat, Everglades National Park, Florida

Copyright by: Michelle M. Smith, 2018
In habitat, Ned Glenn Nature Preserve, Florida

Copyright by: Roger L. Hammer

Copyright by: Shirley Denton

Copyright by: Keith A. Bradley

Copyright by: Joe Montes de Oca via iNaturalist

Other data on Exothea paniculata available from:

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