UF/IFAS Okeechobee County Extension Service

458 Highway 98 North

Okeechobee, FL 34972-2578

Phone: (863) 763-6469

E- mail: indianco@ufl.edu 

Quick LinksSpecies     Names   Description  Foliage    Flowers     Uses   Companions   Pests & Problems   Cultivar chart      References    

 Add drops  of Gold to Florida Yards 

Daniel F. Culbert, Extension Horticulture Agent

For release: June 14, 2006

 

A frustrated gardener asked me to help him figure out the “correct” name for a newly popular shrub, and it led to this week’s column on a colorful plant for our local landscapes.  It has pretty flowers, attractive fruit, and once established requires little care except pruning.  Golden Dewdrops gained the attention of landscapers and growers as a Florida Plant of the Year, and is now a featured item in many garden centers in southern Florida.

However, there are a few yellow caution flags that ought to be considered when choosing Golden Dewdrops: there are some limited reports of poisonous characteristics, escaping habits, and thorny growth that the informed buyer needs to consider. Despite these limitations, Golden Dewdrop or Duranta can be a very colorful addition to your Florida Yard.

 

Experts tell us there are between 17 and 36 different species of Duranta worldwide.  They are in the Verbena family, which makes them related to such plants as beautyberry and lantana.  Most originated in tropical America, or come from the Caribbean basin or Tropical American locations.

There are two Duranta species commonly used as ornamentals.  Duranta erecta is thought to be a native of the Florida Keys, but is more likely to have been collected from Mexico or South America.  This small-leaved species was previously identified as D. repens.  A second species,  D. stenostachya,  has been called Brazilian Skyflower by some, and it has noticeably larger leaves.  Both have been used to produce hybrids and many different cultivated varieties of Golden Dewdrops.

A detailed look at Duranta erecta.

  Click on drawing to link to full sized drawing 

This botanical illustration of Duranta repens was made in the late1700's. Click on picture to link to full sized print. 

And if this name-game hasn’t yet confused you, there are a number of common names given for this plant: Skyflower (as mentioned above - for its bluish or purple flowers), Pigeon-berry, Honey drops and Golden-dewdrop (for its rounded yellow fruits), plus a host of other localized names.  (I'm kind of partial to calling this the UF plant because of the Orange fruit and blue flowers!)  For simplicity, I choose to use the name Duranta.  By the way, the genus was named for an Italian botanist and physician, Castore Durantes.

This is a large, fast-growing, multi-stemmed shrub.  The branches are often droopy and vinelike, and the stems may have sharp spines.  Use it where the soil is well drained, and after establishment, watering will not necessary.  Slow release fertilizers will produce more growth, flowers and fruit.  Give it as much light as it can handle.

Generally the foliage is light green, but some cultivars have a leaves with a golden yellow color, a creamy white variegated leaf edge, or may even have a yellowish variegated pattern to the leaves.  Size of the leaves is 1-2 inches long for most varieties, while the Brazilian types may have 4-inch long leaves. The plants with variegated leaves do better in places with a little less sun. 

Different growth forms of Duranta are seen in the display gardens at the UF/IFAS Indian River Research & Education Center, Fort Pierce. Photo: Dan Culbert UF/IFAS

Foliage of Duranta is no longer a boring green color. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS

 

New varieties of Duranta may be golden yellow or variegated with creamy white or even yellowed areas.  Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS

 

The full clusters of fragrant pale-blue, lavender, purple or even white flowers grow on the ends of the stems.  They are attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds in summer.  Look closely inside the ¼ to ½ inch flowers. They will show a colored stripe if it is from the small-leaf Duranta species. Some other varieties have a white ruffled rim on the outer edge of the flower.  Flowering (and fruiting) is not as strong with those plants with variegated leaves.

The tips of Golden dewdrop stems are covered with bloom in the warm season.  Photo: University of Georgia

 

Different varieties of Duranta have different shades of deep to light purple flowers. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS

Flowers quickly mature into clusters of golden yellow fruit. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS

Flowers are quickly followed by bunches of golden-orange berries, popular with birds. These fruit can contain up to eight nutlets, but under most conditions don’t produce volunteer plants in other areas.  Flowers and fruit are often found on the plant simultaneously, which makes Duranta an attractive show.  Yellow fruit can hang on the plant into the winter if the birds don’t eat them. 

A Versatile Plant

In frost-free areas Duranta has gained favor as a flowering shrub that can be pruned into a small flowering tree, know as a standard.  Some have a tendency to be a bit thorny, and could be useful as a secure natural fence or “burglar bush”. 

If used as a mounding bush, be sure to give it six-foot spacing unless there is a desire to be constantly cutting it back.  Speaking from personal experience, it is not a good foundation plant because of the need to prune it away from walls.  I’ve heard from “Yard Doc” Carol Bailey that it is being used in a Miami mall entrance median.  The pots were placed with about 8" of growth space – and will keep the pruners very busy as it gets bigger.  I have also seen it in a road median in Fort Pierce with 3-foot spacing, which may also be too tight.

This Golden Dewdrop was planted too close to the house and must be pruned to keep it in bounds. Photo: Dan Culbert, UF/IFAS

"Gold Mound" Duranta used as a median planting in Fort Pierce. Photo: Dan Culbert,, UF/IFAS

In cooler locations where it is likely to freeze back, stems can recover the next season, so it is used as a flowering perennial.  And in areas farther up north, Duranta are being marketed as “annuals”, designed to freeze-out during winter.  Smaller dwarf Duranta varieties are being selected for use as patio plants or hanging baskets that take advantage of its drooping habit.

Durantas may also be trained into bonsai specimens and can be pruned into topiaries.  I bet you didn’t know that the tallest topiary in the World was 61 feet, created by a horticulturalist in India from a Duranta!

This Duranta was trained as a bonsai plant. Photo from Bonsaiweb.com 

   

 

 

The World's tallest Topiary is a Duranta!

Moirangthem Okendra Kumbi of Manipur, Manipur India has maintained a topiary from a Duranta plant since 1983, and was declared the tallest Topiary in the World in 1995.  In 1999 it was still going at 61 feet. Photo courtesy Ministry of Communication & Information Technology, 
Imphal West District,  Govt. of India

Lake Worth landscape designer Pam Crawford suggests that Duranta standards look great with Cassia and Dwarf Poinciana, or if smaller plants are used, try combining them with Firebush, Pentas or Lantana.  If the variegated forms are used instead, try to use other light textured flowering plants like Plumbago or Thyrallis or combine them with dark leaved plants such as Crotons.

Pests and Problems 

Occasional pests of the Durantas include nematodes, caterpillars, mites, mealybugs, whiteflies and scale insects. Few have been reported to be real problems.  Significant plant diseases on Durantas have not been seen.  Jerry Parsons of Texas A&M reported that deer grazed their Durantas down to the crown, with no ill effects to the deer. 

However, be aware that many references state that this plant has poisonous properties. One reference states that the plant contains hydrocyanic acid, while others say it has saponin, which is poisonous to humans. There are no confirmed poisonings in the US but there are some reports of children becoming ill from eating berries in Australia.  If curious pets or kids use your yard, teach them this plant is not edible, or avoid planting it as a precaution.

The other potential problem with Durantas is a tendency to sucker and spread if left unattended.  Some areas of the world have noted problems with this plant invading natural areas, but this has not been a problem in the US.  A review of the literature by the University of Florida Invasive Species Task force has not turned up any indications of invasive problems in our state, and we therefore can recommend this plant for your Florida Yard.

I’ve placed more information, including photos and a table of Duranta varieties on our Okeechobee web page, http://okeechobee.ifas.ufl.edu.  If you need additional information on Durantas, please email us at okeechobee@ifas.ufl.edu or call us at 863-763-6469.  Local residents can stop by our office at 458 Hwy 98 North in Okeechobee. Oh, and Happy Father’s Day to all those Dads!

-30-

Trade names, where used, are given for the purpose of providing specific information. They do not constitute an endorsement or guarantee of products named, nor does it imply criticism of products not named. The Florida Cooperative Extension Service - Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer authorized to provide research, educational information, and other services to individuals and institutions that function without regard to race, color, sex, age, handicap, or national origin.  Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS / University of Florida.  Millie Ferrar-Cahncy, Interim Dean Last update: 06/19/2012 .  This page is maintained by Dan Culbert 

references

Duranta Cultivar Chart - Click here!

Brigham, Steve.  Durable, Dependable: Durantas!  In Botanically Correct newsletter. San Diego Horticultural Society, 2002. http://www.sdhortsoc.org/

Dehgan, Bijan.  Landscape Plants for Subtropical Climates. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1998, p.577. http://www.upf.com/book.asp?id=DEHGAF98 

Gilman, Ed. Duranta repens ( FPS-190). Gainesville: Florida Cooperative Extension Service, October 1999. http://hort.ifas.ufl.edu/database/documents/pdf/shrub_fact_sheets/durrepa.pdf 

Parsons, Jerry.  Duranta - a Texas SuperStar Plant for Gardeners in '06. San Antonio: Texas A&M University Bexar County Extension, 2006.  http://www.plantanswers.com/duranta.htm 

Queensland (Australia) Government Health Services.  Duranta / Plants and mushrooms.   Queensland Poisons Information Centre, 20 January 2006 http://www.health.qld.gov.au/poisonsinformationcentre/plants_fungi/duranta.asp 

Thomas, Philip A.  Duranta erecta.  Pacific Island Ecosystems at Risk (PIER) species report.  Hawaii: Institute of Pacific Islands Forestry, 3/11/05http://www.hear.org/Pier/species/duranta_erecta.htm

Duranta stamp