Alphabetical Plant Listing

Bursera simaruba (Gumbo Limbo)

Gumbo Limbo, Gumbo-limbo, Copperwood, Chaca, West Indian Birch, Naked Indian, Turpentine Tree, Elaphrium simaruba, Pistacia simaruba


Prized for its smooth, lustrous coppery bark, Bursera simaruba (Gumbo Limbo) is a large, semi-evergreen tree, with an open, irregular to rounded crown. Its thick trunk is topped by massive branches which spread out at side angles. They are covered with an attractive, shiny, bronze-colored peeling bark. On mature trees, the bark often hangs in thin, papery strips. The tree is sometimes referred to as the tourist tree because the bark is red and peeling, like the skin of sunburnt tourists. The glossy green, odd-pinnately compound foliage is made up of 3-9 ovate to oblong leaflets, 4 in. long (10 cm). Turpentine aroma is emitted when the leaves are crushed. In late winter to mid-spring, inconspicuous pale green or white flowers emerge in clusters on 2-6 in. long panicles (5-15 cm). They are followed by red diamond-shaped berries that split into three sections at maturity to reveal a small red seed. The fruit takes a year to ripen and matures in early summer. Gumbo Limbo provides moderate amounts of food and cover for wildlife. It is a larval host plant for dingy purplewing butterflies, and attracts bees and other insect pollinators. Birds seek out the fruit to feed on the aril, which, though small, is rich in lipids. Native to tropical regions of the Americas, including Florida, Gumbo Limbo is noted for its resistance to strong winds (hurricane-resistant species in South Florida), drought, and neglect. Once established, it requires little attention. Fast-growing, Gumbo Limbo makes a beautiful specimen plant with its wonderful bark and a good shade tree in the hot summer months. It is ideal on a large property or as a street tree and needs room to grow.

  • Grows up to 25-40 ft. tall (7.5-12 m) and 25-30 ft. wide (7.5-9 m).
  • Performs best in full sun to part shade in a wide range of moist to dry, well-drained soils. Tolerates drought and moderate amounts of salt spray. Adapts to alkaline or poor, deep white sands but will also grow quickly on more fertile soil.
  • No serious pest or disease issues.
  • Needs little pruning to develop a strong structure. Occasional pruning to remove the lower branches that may droop close to the ground. The strong roots can lift sidewalks, crack roads and can be a tripping hazard.
  • Propagate by seed, which germinates quickly if fresh. Most often propagated by cuttings. Branches of any size take root readily when stuck in the ground. Trees grown from seed usually have a better shape
  • Native to tropical regions of the Americas from South Florida to Mexico and the Caribbean to Brazil, Jinotega and Venezuela.

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Requirements

Hardiness 10 – 11
Plant Type Trees
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 25' – 40' (7.5m – 12m)
Spread 25' – 30' (7.5m – 9m)
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy, Semi-Evergreen, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, Southeast, Florida
Tolerance Drought, Salt
Attracts Birds, Butterflies

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Holly Guerrio, Victor Arguello, Lisa Cohen, Francisco Gallego, Shutterstock

While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.


Requirements

Hardiness 10 – 11
Plant Type Trees
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 25' – 40' (7.5m – 12m)
Spread 25' – 30' (7.5m – 9m)
Water Needs Low, Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Clay, Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Moist but Well-Drained, Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy, Semi-Evergreen, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, Southeast, Florida
Tolerance Drought, Salt
Attracts Birds, Butterflies

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