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February 26th, 2020

In the Garden: Berry interesting

by R.S. Walsh

Look out for the fruitful inkberry (Scaevola plumieri), a Florida native, as it grows its way throughout the sandy beaches. Don’t be fooled by the name; this berry bush wouldn’t taste too great, but looks fabulous in any landscape in need of a fresh flare.

You can spot this shrub growing green all year round, flowering in the spring, summer, and fall to produce white, five-petal blooms. These precious flowers attract bees and butterflies, but the berries are much more popular among birds and even iguanas! The dark purple berries, reaching the size of small olives, are glossy and abundant throughout each bush, and they each carry a single seed which can be germinated. The fruit and flowers grow atop a succulent stem, and most of the plant’s foliage is known to gather at each branch’s tip, making it appear more sparsely sprouted. The evergreen leaves are glossy, thick, and dark in color.

Like most natives, the inkberry plant is tolerant to salty winds and drought, but they don’t care for standing water. It loves to catch some Florida rays in full sun, and it’s very slow-growing, which makes maintenance quite easy. The bushes look lovely as groundcover, or even allowing them to cascade down a wall can result in an intriguing style. They also do an excellent job of stabilizing sand dunes and beachfronts.

You’ll see the inkberry rooting to the island sands, but don’t be shy about adding it to your own backyard! It has wonderful curb appeal if you’re in search for an evergreen shrub that won’t disappoint!

This column is a joint effort by all at In The Garden, Sanibel’s local garden center located at 3889 Sanibel Captiva Road, Sanibel Island, Florida.

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