Jamaica Dogwood (Dodonaea viscosa)

 

Dodonaea viscosa flowers, Cooper's Island

Dodonaea viscosa is nativeto Bermuda, Florida, Cuba and Jamaica. This plant has a number of common names, including Florida Hopbush and Varnish Leaf. In Bermuda it is most often referred to as Jamaica Dogwood. It grows as a shrub in forested areas, occasionally as a tree up to 20 feet (6 m) tall. Jamaica Dogwood grows rapidly even in poor soil and is reasonably tolerant of drought. The bright green, pointed leaves are about half an inch (1.3 cm) wide and 2-4 inches (5-10 cm) long. Leaves are alternate on the branches. The trunk and branches are covered in rough bark. Flowers appear in the spring and summer. The flowers, which occur in bunches close to the branches, are very small greenish bells. According to Britton (1918) Jamaica Dogwood is polygamodioecious, meaning this species may have bisexual and male flowers on some plants and bisexual and female flowers on others.

 

Jamaica Dogwood fruitThe most striking feature of Jamaica Dogwood is its interesting fruit. The fruit are held in bunches and each have three or four dry papery wings, each of which contains one or two oval, black seeds about 1mm in diameter. The fruit turn from green to tan when they mature, and are occasionally reddish.  

Jamaica Dogwood was once common on hillsides island-wide but has declined as a result of habitat destruction and competition from invasive trees. It has been widely planted in parks and nature reserves. Examples can be seen adjacent to the parking lot at Chaplin Bay, around Cooper's Island pond and in the woodland at Fort Scaur. Jamaica Dogwood propagates readily from seed and is available to home owners from several garden centres.