Alphabetical Plant Listing

Guaiacum sanctum (Lignum Vitae)

Holywood, Holywood Lignum-Vitae


Guaiacum sanctum (Lignum Vitae) is an extremely slow-growing evergreen shrub or small tree with crooked, often multiple trunks and a dense rounded canopy. The even-pinnately compound leaves are small, up to 2 in. long (5 cm), leathery, shiny dark green. Blooming year-round, with a peak in spring, large showy clusters of star-shaped, bluish purple flowers, 1 in. across (2.5 cm), with contrasting yellow stamens, stand out against the foliage. The flowers attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators. They are followed by small, ornamentally attractive, orange seed pods. They burst open when ripe to reveal black seeds encapsulated separately in a red skin. Catbirds and mockingbirds eat the seeds. The bark is creamy white to gray, and peels in patches with age. The wood is incredibly hard and heavy and can sink when placed in water. Resins in the wood have been medicinally used in the past to treat arthritis, rheumatism or skin diseases, hence the common name 'Lignum Vitae' which means 'Tree of Life'. Native to Florida, tropical America, from Mexico through Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America, Lignum Vitae is an excellent accent plant with its picturesque multiple trunks, evergreen leaves, showy flowers and fruit. It is a popular choice for use as a container, patio, or specimen planting. Lignum Vitae is also ideal for seaside landscapes since it is highly tolerant of salt and drought. Noted for its hurricane resistance, Lignum Vitae is the national tree of the Bahamas.

  • Grows up to 10-30 ft. tall (3-9 m) and 8-12 ft. wide (2.4-3.6 m).
  • Performs best in full sun to partial shade in clay to sandy, dry to moist, sharply-drained soils. Highly drought tolerant, this plant is also tolerant of wind, and salt, making it an excellent choice for seaside plantings.
  • No serious disease issues.
  • Native to Florida, tropical America, from Mexico through Central America, the Caribbean, and northern South America.

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Requirements

Hardiness 10 – 11
Plant Type Shrubs, Trees
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 10' – 30' (3m – 9m)
Spread 8' – 12' (240cm – 3.6m)
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 Showy, Evergreen, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, Southeast, Florida
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Salt
Attracts Birds, Butterflies
Garden Styles Coastal Garden

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Francisco Herrera, Shutterstock, Cultivar413, Wendy Cutler, Flickr

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 Shrubs, Trees
Exposure Full Sun, Partial Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Early,Mid,Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Winter
Height 10' – 30' (3m – 9m)
Spread 8' – 12' (240cm – 3.6m)
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 Showy, Evergreen, Fruit & Berries
Native Plants United States, Southeast, Florida
Tolerance Drought, Dry Soil, Salt
Attracts Birds, Butterflies
Garden Styles Coastal Garden

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