Gorgeous gumbo limbo

Gumbo limbo (Bursera simarouba) are burly big trees, usually multi-trunked.  Only a few are found at the Oslo Riverfront Conservation Area, youngish trees “seeded” by birds after the Christmas freeze of 1989 that brought bone-chilling temperatures well below freezing and killed off most large gumbo limbos.

Tourist tree is another common name for this tropical native tree, a reference to the often exfoliating reddish bark …

Copperwood is yet another common name.  Check out the well-camoflagued eastern lubber grasshopper (Romalea microptera) above.

Its odd-pinnate leaves are elliptic to ovate with a well-defined drip-tip (acuminate apex).  The leaf venation is banchiododrone, a single primary vein with secondary veins that do not terminate at the edge of the leaf but instead join up in a series of loops and arches …

Gumbo limbo flowers and fruits throughout the year. The 1/2″ elliptical fruits, a 3-valved capsule (usually) encasing a single fruit with a fatty red aril (seed covering), are held in terminal panicles (compound clusters). The fruits take about a year to mature and are greenish brown when ripe.

To us, they are most conspicuous in the winter when gumbo limbo is briefly deciduous. New leaves usually swiftly replace the dropped leaves. Gumbo limbos also will drop their leaves during times of prolonged drought.

Gumbo limbo can be propagated from seed or from branch cuttings, even large ones. These fast growing, versatile trees do well in home landscapes as long as there’s sufficient space, as you can see in the photo below of a beautiful gumbo limbo in the maritime hammock at the Barrier Island Sanctuary and Education Center.


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