, commonly named Florida fishpoison tree
, Jamaican dogwood
, is a medium-sized, deciduous, tropical tree endemic to southern Florida
Florida is a state in the southeastern United States, located on the nation's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It is bordered to the west by the Gulf of Mexico, to the north by Alabama and Georgia and to the east by the Atlantic Ocean. With a population of 18,801,310 as measured by the 2010 census, it...
, the Florida Keys
The Florida Keys are a coral archipelago in southeast United States. They begin at the southeastern tip of the Florida peninsula, about south of Miami, and extend in a gentle arc south-southwest and then westward to Key West, the westernmost of the inhabited islands, and on to the uninhabited Dry...
Texas is the second largest U.S. state by both area and population, and the largest state by area in the contiguous United States.The name, based on the Caddo word "Tejas" meaning "friends" or "allies", was applied by the Spanish to the Caddo themselves and to the region of their settlement in...
The Caribbean is a crescent-shaped group of islands more than 2,000 miles long separating the Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, to the west and south, from the Atlantic Ocean, to the east and north...
, and Latin America
Latin America is a region of the Americas where Romance languages – particularly Spanish and Portuguese, and variably French – are primarily spoken. Latin America has an area of approximately 21,069,500 km² , almost 3.9% of the Earth's surface or 14.1% of its land surface area...
. Native Americans
The indigenous peoples of the Americas are the pre-Columbian inhabitants of North and South America, their descendants and other ethnic groups who are identified with those peoples. Indigenous peoples are known in Canada as Aboriginal peoples, and in the United States as Native Americans...
of the West Indies discovered extracts from the tree could sedate fish, allowing them to be caught by hand. This practice led to the tree's common names—fishpoison and fishfuddle. The tree has medicinal value as an analgesic
An analgesic is any member of the group of drugs used to relieve pain . The word analgesic derives from Greek an- and algos ....
The generic name is Latin for "fish killer", and the specific epithet is Latin for "little fish".
The Florida fishpoison tree grows in coastal zones. It prefers well-drained sandy soils, with a top layer of humus. The tree has some tolerance to short-term storm surges of brackish water or seawater. Although it grows in coastal conditions, the tree is usually protected from direct salt spray by adjoining vegetation. Established trees are highly tolerant of drought. Its sensitivity to the cold limits Florida fishpoison tree to areas no colder than plant hardiness zone11.
The Florida fishpoison tree attains medium size with heights of 12 to 15 m and bole diameters of 46 to 118 cm. An irregular, open crown develops with stout, erect branches.
Deciduous means "falling off at maturity" or "tending to fall off", and is typically used in reference to trees or shrubs that lose their leaves seasonally, and to the shedding of other plant structures such as petals after flowering or fruit when ripe...
leaves (9 to 23 cm long) are alternate and pinnately compound. Five to 11 leaflets (each 4 to 8 cm long) are present in an opposite arrangement. Leaflets are dark green above and distinctly paler grayish-green below with pubescence.
The white flowers are tinged with red or pink. They appear in pea-like clusters in May and are attractive to bees. Trees will potentially bloom when about 4 m tall and 4 years old. Flowers develop into a light brown, bean-like pod (8 to 10 cm long) with four papery wings. Ripening in July and August, the pods contain red-brown seeds with oval shapes.
Stem bark is thin and olive gray in color with irregular dark patches and many smaller scales. The bark has an unpleasant odor and a distinctly acrid and bitter taste, causing a burning sensation in the mouth.
After removal from the ripe pod, seed
A seed is a small embryonic plant enclosed in a covering called the seed coat, usually with some stored food. It is the product of the ripened ovule of gymnosperm and angiosperm plants which occurs after fertilization and some growth within the mother plant...
s will germinate in 8 to 10 days when sown about 6 mm deep in moist soil. Until seedlings become well established, they should be fertilized and watered. Cuttings placed in moist soil quickly sprout roots. In fact, rooting has been observed to occur so readily that posts made from fresh timber occasionally take root unintentionally.
Florida fishpoison tree is a larval host plant for several butterfly
A butterfly is a mainly day-flying insect of the order Lepidoptera, which includes the butterflies and moths. Like other holometabolous insects, the butterfly's life cycle consists of four parts: egg, larva, pupa and adult. Most species are diurnal. Butterflies have large, often brightly coloured...
species including: the native cassius blue butterfly (Leptotes
Leptotes is a butterfly genus in the family Lycaenidae. They are commonly known as zebra blues in reference to their zebra-striped undersides.Several species have recently been moved here from the genus Tarucus, a rather close relative...
) and hammock skipper (Polygonus leo
) and the introduced fulvous hairstreak (Electrostrymon
Electrostrymon is a genus of butterfly in the family Lycaenidae....
In areas with a suitable climate and soils, Florida fishpoison tree makes a hardy, medium-sized shade tree with attractive seasonal flowers. It is ideal for yards and along fence rows. The species is shade intolerant
In ecology, shade tolerance is a plant's abilities to tolerate low light levels. The term is also used in horticulture and landscaping, although in this context its use is sometimes sloppy, especially with respect to labeling of plants for sale in nurseries....
, requiring full sunlight for maximum development.
The yellow-brown wood of fishpoison tree is resistant to decay, making its timber suitable for outdoor usage, such as boat building, fence posts, and poles. The dense, tight-grained wood is also used as a fuel
Fuel is any material that stores energy that can later be extracted to perform mechanical work in a controlled manner. Most fuels used by humans undergo combustion, a redox reaction in which a combustible substance releases energy after it ignites and reacts with the oxygen in the air...
, to make charcoal
Charcoal is the dark grey residue consisting of carbon, and any remaining ash, obtained by removing water and other volatile constituents from animal and vegetation substances. Charcoal is usually produced by slow pyrolysis, the heating of wood or other substances in the absence of oxygen...
, and as a good carving material.
Indigenous peoples all over the world used local poisonous plants to aid in catching fish, and because of this many plants bear common names descriptive of this use. Within its natural range, Native Americans used an extract from the bark, roots, twigs, and leaves of Florida fishpoison tree to sedate fish, making them easier to catch. A number of chemicals are present in the tree's tissues that are toxic to fish, the principal one being the well-known Rotenone
Rotenone is an odorless chemical that is used as a broad-spectrum insecticide, piscicide, and pesticide. It occurs naturally in the roots and stems of several plants such as the jicama vine plant...
can be toxic and should only be used under direction of a doctor. It has been used in traditional medicine
Traditional medicine comprises unscientific knowledge systems that developed over generations within various societies before the era of modern medicine...
for treating nervous conditions and pain. Recent scientific studies in animals suggest that bark extracts may have potential for their anti-inflammatory
Anti-inflammatory refers to the property of a substance or treatment that reduces inflammation. Anti-inflammatory drugs make up about half of analgesics, remedying pain by reducing inflammation as opposed to opioids, which affect the central nervous system....
A sedative or tranquilizer is a substance that induces sedation by reducing irritability or excitement....
, and anti-spasmodic effects.