Varnish Leaf, Beach Botany


Dodonaea viscosa or Varnish Leaf, a woody evergreen shrub that grows into a small but bushy tree with a height of 3’ to 9’, and rarely it will grow to 30’. Dark green leaves are simple and alternate on the branches. Leathery blades are variable in shape, obovate to lanceolate. Length is 4” to 6” and ½” to 1”wide. Leaves are often sessile (without petiole). The upper surface of the leaves appear to be varnished. Leaf margins are slightly toothed.

Viscosa is a dioecious species with imperfect male and female flowers on separate trees. Both flowers do not have petals. The female flower has a dozen elongated reddish sepals surrounding a greenish style with a sticky stigma awaiting pollen. Fruit is a 3-winged capsule. The male flower has rather large sepals surrounding reddish stamens and anthers with pollen. Male flowers do not bear fruit. Both flowers are about 10mm in diameter. The inflorescence for both is a panicle occurring at the tips of branches.

Habitats are coastal pinelands and hammocks. Distribution is in southern and central counties, but not the northern or panhandle counties The plant family is Sapindaceae, (Soapberry) Family. There is only one other species in the Genus Dodonaea,  D. elaeagnoides. The specimen in the picture is of female flowers that were found in Bonita Springs.