Florida Fiddlewood, Citharexylum spinosum, varies between an evergreen shrub and a slender deciduous tree that is less than 30’ in height. Trunk has a rough grey bark. Branches are few. Compound leaves with as many as a two dozen leaflets are arranged oppositely. Leaf stems are square. Leaflets are oblanceolate in shape. Size is about 6 inches in length and 11/2 inch in width. Upper portion of the leaflet is a dark glossy green. Underneath is dull and slightly pubescent. Margins entire. Petioles and mid-ribs have an orange color that helps to identify the tree.
Clusters of fragrant flowers are sequenced in a lateral raceme inflorescence that grows from leaf axils. The inflorescence is about 3 inches long. Spinosum is dioecious with male and female flowers on separate trees. Corolla has five white lobes. Yellow sex organs at the center of the corolla. Diameter is about ¼ inch. Fruit is a reddish brown drupe. Blooms all year.
Habitats are pine flatwoods and coastal hammocks. Distribution is in a few Atlantic and gulf counties. Spinosum is a member of the Verbenaceae (Vervain Family).
Photo by James Rodwell