Doctor Bush, Beach Botany


The Doctor Bush, Plumbago zeylancia, a member of the Plumbaginaceae (Leadwort Family), is a long-lived perennial with semi-woody vine like stems. This species can be erect, sprawling or climbing. Stems can grow to 3 feet in length. Leaves are alternate on the stems. They are of a dark green color, ovate to lanceolate in shape, and 1.5 inches wide and about 3 inches long. Margins are wavy. Leaves are simple.

Flowers grow at the tip of the stems from a calyx tube made up of five erect sepals surrounding a white pedicle. Tiny glands that makes the flower sticky are attached to the sepals. The corolla has five spaced white petals that are rounded at the tips.  Five blue stamens project out of the corolla’s throat.  Flowers grow in clusters 4 to 12 inches in length along the stems in a raceme inflorescence. Corolla is ½ to ¾ inches in diameter. Flowers are bisexual and fragrant. Fruit is a reddish capsule with dark brown seeds.

Zeylancia is severely poisonous, however, it has medicinal qualities from extracts taken from the roots. Some of the extracts are antiplasmodial, antimicrobial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory. Maybe that is why it’s called “doctor.” Zeylancia habitats are in coastal hammocks along the Atlantic, Gulf and southern counties, Lee County included. Zeylancia is the only native Plumbago in Florida.  A Doctor Bush has been growing in my fiddlewood tree for about 7 years.