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Native Trees and Shrubs


As you amble through River Gardens Third Addition, it has a cool, serene feel which is due to the magnificence of the indigenous trees, shrubs and vegetation. Some of the species that we would like to make note of in River Gardens are listed below. We encourage incorporation of as many native trees, shrubs and vegetation as possible in the home site landscaping design.

(1) Tree Sparkleberry, also known as Farkleberry or Tree Huckleberry, is usually a  large shrub but in favorable situations it becomes a tree up to 30’ in height with  a trunk up to 10” in diameter; the twisted branches forming a rather dense, rounded crown. The bell-shaped white flowers are borne in leafy-bracted clusters. While, by human standards, the black lustrous fruits are scarcely edible, they are frequently eaten by several species of wild birds.

(2) The Live Oak, with its massive trunk, rounded crown, wide-spreading limbs, and evergreen leaves, is almost as much a trademark of the South as is the southern magnolia. A good example is found close to the area of where Sugar-berry and Crabapple meet. This stately tree is our River Gardens Third Addition logo. In the days of sailing ships it provided timbers for the ribs and knees of ships.

(3) The Common Persimmon is a medium-sized tree, rarely exceeding 60’ in height and 18” in diameter. Leaves are alternate, oval, 3” to 6” long, dark green and shining above, paler beneath. Small yellowish or cream-white flowers appear in spring with leaves half grown. Orange fruit on female trees in fall, often hard and sour until first frost. Ripe persimmons are much relished by children, dogs, robins, opossums, raccoons, deer and other animals. Deer tracks have been sighted around the creek beds in River Gardens Third Addition with exit tracks through the culvert to University of West Florida property.

(4) Ti-Ti, also known as Swamp Cyrilla, American Cyrilla, White Ti-Ti, Leatherwood, and Ironwood, is a semi-evergreen shrub or small tree with attractive small white flowers and fruiting capsules arranged in narrow, often clustered, lateral racemes. Though usually not over 15’ high, it can sometimes reach 25 to 30’ in height with a trunk diameter of 10 to 14”.Ti-Ti is an important honey plant and is a source of the nectar bees in making the excellent “Ti-Ti honey”.

(5) Sweet Bay or Silver Bays are well known because just about every low spot, stream bank, or spring head has a number of these medium to small trees. The evergreen leaves show their silvery undersides when the wind blows and almost seem to sparkle. This bay tree has rather small flowers, white and lemony-fragrant, whose structure clearly indicates this species’ relationship to the magnolias. Small fruiting “cones” turn bright red when ripe and have numerous small red seeds which attract birds.

(6) The White Oak is one of our largest and most valuable forest trees. Average specimens will be from 60 to 80 feet in height with a trunk diameter of from 1 to 2 feet; but it often attains a much larger size. The wood is very heavy, hard, strong, tough, and close-grained; a very high grade, all-purpose wood. It is one of the best woods known for tight cooperage, and one of the finest for furniture and hardwood flooring. The acorns of the White Oak are quite sweet and edible, and they were made into flour by the Indians for use in bread-making. They are utilized as food by many kinds of wild birds and animals. White Oak has lovely pale bark, expansive branching, and rich red fall color. You can plant a White Oak fairly close to your house – about 6’ out – because the roots go very deep and shouldn’t present a problem to your foundation. It’s unlikely the branches would ever fall on your roof as they’re very strong and hold up well to wind. They are sensitive to construction, so have your builder give them a wide berth.

(7) The Partridgeberry, Twinberry or Twin Flower is a creeping, moist woodland perennial with paired tubular flowers. The colorful red fruit is edible though it is tasteless. It is apparently eaten only as a last resort by wildlife, since the berries often remain on the plant for months. The flowers bloom from April to June with the berries ripening in August or September, often persisting until the following spring. Partridgeberry is one

of the most adaptable and easy-to-grow groundcovers for the home gardener in the South.

(8) The Laurel Oak is a medium to large-sized tree usually 50 to 60 feet in height with a

trunk diameter of 2 to 3 feet, but at times 100 feet or more in height with a trunk diameter in excess of 4 feet. It develops a broad, round-topped, symmetrical crown when grown in the open. The tree grows naturally in swamps and along the banks of streams. It does well, however, in drier upland soils, grows rapidly, and has been widely planted as a street and shade tree in the South under the name of Darlington Oak. The Laurel Oak is of relatively little importance as a timber tree, but it is occasionally cut and sold as red oak lumber. The small acorns are utilized as food by squirrels, wild turkeys, wild ducks, and other forms of wildlife. The tree may be distinguished from the live oak, which it some-what resembles, by the absence of gray down or fuzz on the under side of the leaves.

(9) Red Oaks are very common to the area, especially dry sites. The leaf shapes vary quite a bit from tree to tree and sometimes even on the same tree. What the leaves usually have in common are spiky edges, a drooping habit, and a tendency to show their light-colored undersides. This is an easy, fairly fast-growing oak for the gardener who is working with soil that is less than ideal.

(10) Red Maples are happy just about anywhere. The Red Maple is cleaner, healthier, and prettier than its better-known cousin, silver maple, and grows almost as fast. It is usually a medium-sized tree, quick-growing and relatively short lived. In Florida, the common tree has a three-lobed, or trident, leaf, and is a distinct variety of the northern red maple. The bark is smooth and light gray on young stems, and dark gray and rough on the old limbs and trunk. In autumn the leaves turn to brilliant shades of red, orange and yellow. The wood, which is commercially known as soft maple, is heavy, close-grained, rather weak and of a light-brown color. It is used in the manufacture of furniture, and for turnery, woodenware, and also fuel. It provides nesting and food for wild birds and squirrels.

(11) The Shortleaf Pine, also known as yellow pine, rosemary pine, and old-field pine, is widely distributed throughout the South. It is usually 50 to 100 feet in height, with evergreen, blue-green, 2 to 5 inch tufts of needles, 2 to 3 per bundle. There are lavender male flowers and pink female flowers in early spring, with the small 1 to 2 ½inch cones remaining for years. Seeds are eaten by ground dove and quail, while the pine needles are used for nests by songbirds.

(12) The Southern, or Narrow-leaf, Crab Apple is limited in Florida to the panhandle. It is readily distinguished from the Sweet Crab Apple by its thickish leaves which are 1 to 2 ½ inches long by ½ to ¾ of an inch wide. The leaves are bluntly pointed or rounded at the tip, and pointed at the base. Flowers open in March or April with the fruits similar to the Sweet Crab Apple but somewhat more flattened.

(13) The Chokecherry is often merely a large shrub, but it may become a small tree up to 25 feet in height with a trunk diameter of about 8 inches. A foolproof identification at any time of year is the special odor that is released when the bark of their young twigs is scraped – the scent seems to fall somewhere between strong cherry cough syrup and stale cigars. The fruits are sometimes used in making jellies. They are also eaten by many species of wild birds and animals. The Chokecherry is very similar to the Wild Black Cherry.


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Dick Godwin or Diane Stephens

711 W. Garden St.
Pensacola, Fl  32501
Phone # 850  432-2583      Fax # 850  438-4226