Simpson’s Stopper

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A small bud opens revealing waving stamens, wildly bursting out.

Simpson’s Stopper, Myrcianthes fragrans, is a multibranched shrub that can grow into a small tree 20 feet high.  It is a long-lived evergreen that is aromatic and showy that makes coastal hammocks its home.

The reddish-brown bark of the species tends to peel away from the trunk. Elliptic to ovate leaves are arranged in pairs along the branches. Upper leaf surfaces are a shiny green, underneath a dull light green. Margins are smooth.  Crushed leaves provide a sweet fragrance.

Tiny fuzzy flowers grow either solitary or in clusters of 2 to 4 in leaf axils which are at the junction between the leaf stem and a branch.  The bloom consists of four white petals with 40 to 50 long white male stamens with yellow pollen bearing anthers at the tips. Directly at the center of the petals is long white female style. Each bloom is about 3/8 of an inch in diameter and is also aromatic.

Red berries appear in the leaf axils after the flowers are pollinated.  They are edible.  This species is endemic to Florida where it is distributed in 15 or so coastal counties on the Atlantic and Gulf.  The flower in the picture is from a plant in my garden. Note the two buds on either side of the bloom.   Simpson’s Stopper is available locally.

 

Dorothy Rodwell