Scientific name: Hamelia patens
Description and Characteristics:
Evergreen shrub or small tree. Heat and drought tolerant once established. Loves hot, dry weather. In the same plant family as gardenia, penta, and coffee. Leaves turn bright red in the fall. It can die back if the winter is unusually cold, but comes back when the weather gets hot. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
The small black fruit is considered acidic and edible, and a fermented drink is supposedly prepared from it. The leaves and stems have been used for tanning. The crushed leaves are sometimes applied to cuts and bruises, and the crushed leaves with vinegar are applied to eruptions of the skin. The plant is also used for washes and for lotions to relieve swelling of the legs and to deodorize them. A syrup from the fruit has reportedly been used in the West Indies as a remedy for dysentery.
Very long blooming period (nonstop from June to November).
Full sun with good drainage. Will grow in almost any soil, even highly alkaline, heavy clays, as long as they are well drained. No serious insect or disease problems when grown outdoors in full sun locations. Can tolerate partial shade, but flowers more in full sun. Good choice for containers.
Thrives in heavy clay soils and high rainfall.