New plantings: Vallesia antillana

I “won” a couple of the silent auctions at last month’s FNPS plant auction. One of the plants I brought home is pearl berry, Vallesia antillana. It’s a very pretty little plant, and apparently quite rare in the wild. (My Chafin tells me that it’s known only from 7 sites, 4 of which are state or national parks.)  It’s also rather rare in cultivation; the only other native plant person I know with this plant tells me that hers is much smaller than this one. And mine is only about two feet tall, and probably about two feet around. I kept it in its pot for a month or so, and then the other day decided the time was right to put it in the ground.

It took me a while to find an appropriate site. The notes that came with the specimen indicated that it likes filtered light, and there’s not a lot of that on my property. I have plenty of spots that are either in morning, mid-day, afternoon, or all-day full sun; I also have a few sometimes-shady spots under a palm or gumbo limbo. But that’s really about it. But I finally realized that over against the fence on the eastern side of the house, there’s a little group of palms under a large pod-bearing tree.* And in that spot the fence shades it from full sun in the morning, while the palms and the large tree filter the midday sun, and the house shades the area in the late afternoon.

I put the plant there soon after bringing it home, and after a few weeks in the pot, it didn’t seem to be any the worse for wear, so I got my spade and put it in the ground.

Here’s a picture from the early days, when it was still a potted plant:

The leaves are nice and shiny, and the flower is quite dainty and interesting. According to the internet references I’ve found it fruits and flowers year-round, although I’m still waiting to see any fruits on mine. Of course, those references also say it’s a slow-growing shrub that reaches about 5 feet; my Chafin tells me it’s a shrub or small tree to 12 feet tall, so, as with most things, you get to decide which source you want to believe. Everyone seems to agree that it should be placed in the dogbane family (Apocynaceae), and that it has alternate, elliptic leaves with milky sap (a distinguishing characteristic from other alternate-elliptic-leaved shrubs) and fruits and flowers year-round (another distinguishing feature).

There’s a story about this plant, though; I’m just waiting for the good folks at to firm up an ID for me before I get to it. Stay tuned!

* I’m told the tree is a copperpod, which is one name for “yellow poinciana,”Peltophorum pterocarpum, but I haven’t seen the brilliant showy flowers that tree is supposed to have, so that may not be right. Whatever the tree is, it provides some good shade. It certainly does have copper-colored seed pods:

But I’m not sure that the ID is correct, despite the convergence of feature and common name. My tree has puffy, nonshowy flowers, which is a big strike against that ID:

Any ideas what this tree might be?