Lancewood is now full of flowers at the north entrance to the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area (ORCA). Its creamy white flowers are held in terminal clusters (panicles) and attract to bees and other pollinators.
Its opposite leaves are leathery as its species name, coriacea, indicates. Coriaceous is the botanical term for leathery. Its leaves can be up to 6″ long, have pointed drip tips, yellow venation, and are fragrant when crushed, as are the leaves of many plants in the cinnamon family, Lauraceae. Its yellow leafstems (petioles) are curved, a distinctive character that help with ID.
Its genus name keeps changing. Currently, the scientific name for this plant is Damburneya coriacea. It recently has been called Nectandra coriacea and Ocotea coriacea.
Lancewood is a slender tropical tree usually with an erect central trunk that grows to be 20 – 30′ tall. It ranges as far north as Volusia County on the east coast of Florida and Lee County on the west coast. The bark is grayish on young tree and becomes darker and warty with age.
Lots of lancewood trees grow in the moist hammock area as you enter north ORCA. They had died back to the ground during the Christmas freeze of 1989 when temperatures fell into the 20s for multiple days. When Hurricane Frances and Jeanne damaged the live oak (Quercus virginiana) canopy, the lancewoods grew swiftly in response to increased sunlight.
Flowering and fruiting can occur throughout the year, as is commonplace with plants of tropical origin. The fruits are dark purple when ripe and are held in a yellowish or reddish seed cup and are enjoyed by wildlife.
Birds and other wildlife consume & spread the fruits. The fruit is a drupe, a fleshy fruit with a single seed.
The seeds are not long lived and require immediate planting. Lancewood is fast-growing in full sun, is available from native plant specialty nurseries, and could be a wonderful addition to your landscape.