Florida Forestry Information
Ericaceae
The Heath Family
 
The heath family includes about 70 genera with over 1,500 species of plants!  These plants are widely distributed through the cooler regions of the world.  Several member of this family, particularly the azaleas, rhododendrons, and laurels, are prized ornamentals.  This family also includes the blueberries, cranberries, and huckleberries.  There are 22 genera of this family in the southeastern U.S., 6 of which include arborescent forms.  3 of these trees and shrubs are common in Florida. 
 
 Click on the links below for introductions to some of the plants of this family:
 
Vaccinium arboreum
Lyonia lucida
Lyonia ferruginea
 
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Vaccinium arboreum 
tree sparkleberry 
 
Habit 

Tree sparkleberry is a small, bushy tree, sometimes reaching a height of 30 feet and a diameter of 10 inches.  It is usually much smaller.  It is characterized by a short, crooked bole, contorted branches, and a dense, round crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and deciduous or persistent for a year.  The leaves are 1-3 inches long, about 1 inch wide, and are oval in shape, with an acute or rounded apex.  The leaf base is wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are entire or have very small teeth.  The leaf surfaces are dark green and glabrous above, paler below, sometimes with 5 scattered hairs along the midrib and principal veins.  Leaf petioles very short or nearly sessile. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are perfect with small, leaf-like bracts. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a shiny, black, many-seeded berry.  It is about 1/4 inch in diameter.  The seeds are tiny and kidney-shaped. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are slender, brown to reddish-brown, and sometimes angled.  The pith is white and  homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is dark brown, sometimes with a purplish tinge.  It is divided into long, thin, elongated, shreddy, interlacing ridges. 
 
Habitat 

Tree sparkleberry in an understory species which grows on moist soils near streams and lakes, along hillsides, and in high mountain valleys.  Unlike other plants of this family, tree sparkleberry can survive on limestone soils.  It is found from the Virginia coastal plain, west to southern Illinois and Missouri; south to Florida, through the gulf states to eastern Texas. 
 
Use 

A compound extracted from the root bark has sometimes been used locally in the treatment of diarrhea.  The bark from the bole is suitable for tanning leather.  The wood has been used for tobacco pipes, woodenware, and novelties. 
 

Click on the links below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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Lyonia lucida 
fetter-bush 
 
Habit 

Fetter-bush is an evergreen shrub, commonly very attractive when in flower.  It is robustly branched from the base, with a crown as broad as the height of the plant. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistent.  The leaves are 2-3 inches long, about 1/4 inch to 3 inches wide, and are broadly elliptical in shape, with an acute apex.  The leaf base is wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are entire.  The leaf surfaces are dark green, leathery, and glabrous, with scattered dots above.  Below, the leaves are paler with more abundant dots.  Leaf petioles very short or nearly sessile. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are perfect and occur on stalks that hang from the twig. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a small, ovoid, urn-shaped capsule, containing many tiny amber-brown, thinly wedge-shaped seeds. 
 
Twigs 

The twigs are strongly angled, green flecked, and have dark, loose, narrow scales.  The pith is homogeneous. 

Habitat 

This plant grows in shrub bogs and bays, seasonally-wet pine savannahs, flatwoods, cypress-gum ponds, wet woodlands, and sometimes in Florida scrub communities.  It is found from southeastern Virginia south to central Florida; west to Louisiana.  It is also found in Cuba. 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
Ericaceae Menu
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Lyonia ferruginea 
stagger-bush, tree lyonia 
 
Habit 

Stagger-bush is a large evergreen shrub, with a very contorted bole.  It can reach a height of 30 feet and a diamter of 10 inches.  The limbs are stout and ascending, forming an irregular, open, oblong crown. 
 
Leaves 

Leaves are simple, alternate, and persistant.  The leaves are 1-3 inches long, about 1 inch wide, and are broadly elliptical in shape, with an acute apex.  The leaf base is wedge-shaped.  Leaf margins are entire.  The leaf surfaces are pale green, leathery, glabrous, and somewhat scaly above.  Below, the leaves are covered with pale rusty scales.  Leaf petioles are 3/8 inch long and swollen at the base. 
 
Flowers 
 
The flowers are perfect and occur in clusters at the end of stalks. 
 
Fruit 
 
Fruit is a 5-celled, oblong capsule, about 1/2 inch in length, containing many small, light brown seeds, about 1/8 inch long. 

Twigs 

The twigs are slender, 3-angled, reddish-brown, often pubescent, and sometimes scaly.  The pith is homogeneous. 
 
Bark 

The bark is reddish-brown and is divided into narrow, scaly ridges by shallow, longitudinal fissures. 
 
Habitat 

This plant grows in hardwood hammocks and on sandy soils.  It is found in the coastal regions of South Carolina, Georgia, and Florida.  It is also found in the West Indes and Mexico. 
 

Click on the link below to see more information on and/or images of this tree (use the "Back" function to return here):
 
Query the USDA Plant Database
 
 
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