Cordia sebestena

Cordia sebestena L.

Common Names

Largeleaf geigertree

Languages: English

Overview

Comprehensive Description

The Geiger-tree (Cordia sebestena) is a shrub or small tree native to the Caribbean region, but widely grown as an ornamental throughout the tropics and subtropics for its showy reddish-orange flowers. Although Florida is sometimes said to fall within its native distribution, it has been argued that it was almost surely introduced to the Florida Keys early in the 19th century, possibly by John Geiger, a ship captain residing in Key West (Hammer 2000; Wunderlin and Hansen 2008). However, Gann et al. (2008) claim that it is, in fact, native to Florida, stating that intensive research in herbaria indicates that this species is native to the Florida Keys and extreme southern mainland. 

Author(s): Shapiro, Leo
Rights holder(s): Shapiro, Leo

Description

Morphology

The Geiger-tree (Cordia sebestena) is a shrub or small tree (reaching about 7 to 8 m height, 15 cm diameter). The thick evergreen leaves are broad (10 to 20 cm long and 5 to 10 cm wide), long-pointed at the apex, and often toothed on the edges; leaves are very rough on the upper surface and usually hairy below. Twigs are hairy. The tubular, orange-to-red flowers (present year round) are about 4 cm across and clustered at the ends of twigs. The white, pointed, pear-shaped fruits are about 2.5 to 5 cm long with a large seed. (Little and Wadsworth 1964; Petrides 1988)

Author(s): Shapiro, Leo
Rights holder(s): Shapiro, Leo

Ecology

Habitat

Cordia sebestena grows in poor soils and on seashores (Petrides 1988) and is often planted as an ornamental (Little and Wadsworth 1964). It flourishes in dry soils and is tolerant of salt conditions (Seddon and Lennox 1980). Gann et al. (2008) describe the habitat in South Florida as coastal berm, disturbed upland, and rockland hammock.

Author(s): Shapiro, Leo
Rights holder(s): Shapiro, Leo

Distribution

Cordia sebestena is widely planted as an ornamental throughout the tropics and subtropics. The boundaries of its native range appear to be controversial. It is clearly native to at least some islands of the West Indies, although Little and Wadsworth (1964) specifically state that it is not native to Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands. Its native range is sometimes claimed to include at least parts of Central and South America. There is also controversy about whether this species is actually native to Florida, or whether it was introduced to the Florida Keys in the early 19th century, as many have argued (Hammer 2000; Wunderlin and Hansen 2008. Gann et al. (2008) claim that intensive research in herbaria indicates that this species is indeed native to the Florida Keys and extreme southern mainland. Gann et al. give the native range as "south Florida, the West Indies, southern Mexico, and Central America".

Author(s): Shapiro, Leo
Rights holder(s): Shapiro, Leo

Relevance

Uses

The fruit of Cordia sebestena is edible, but not commonly eaten by people (Whistler 2000). The dark brown wood is heavy, hard, and close-grained and has been used in Latin America to make cabinets and furniture (Elias 1980).

Author(s): Shapiro, Leo
Rights holder(s): Shapiro, Leo

Taxonomy

  • Sebesten sebestena (L.) Britt. ex Small (synonym)

References

Elias, T. S. (1980).  The Complete Guide to North American Trees. New York: Book Division, Time Mirror Magazines, Inc./Van Nostrand Reinhold.
Gann, G. D., Bradley K. A., & Woodmansee S. W. (2008).  The Floristic Inventory of South Florida Database Online. Miami, Florida: The Institute for Regional Conservation.
Hammer, R. L. (2000).  NATIVE OR NOT? THE GREAT DEBATE. Tillandsia (newsletter of the Dade Chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society). November-December 2000,
Little, E. L., & Wadsworth F. H. (1964).  Common Trees of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, Agriculture Handbook No. 249. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Forest Service.
Petrides, G. A. (1988).  A Field Guide to Eastern Trees. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.
Seddon, S. A., & Lennox G. W. (1980).  Trees of the Caribbean. Oxford: Macmillan Education.
Whistler, W. A. (2000).  Tropical Ornamentals: A Guide. Portland, Oregon: Timber Press.
Wunderlin, R. P., & Hansen B. F. (2008).  Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants (http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/). Tampa, Florida: Institute for Systematic Botany, University of South Florida.