Nectandra coriacea (Ocotea coriacea)
Today John and George were not just taking an idle nature stroll. We scouted images for our upcoming refurbished online course on Native Plants, visiting two neighboring hammocks near Stuart: Twin Rivers Park and Rocky Point Hammock Park. Species diversity makes those two small refuges living plant museums. Lancewood perfumed the air from its small white flowers asking to be today’s featured species. Or at least to lead the parade.
Lancewood is a small tree or shrub in the Cinnamon Family, resembling its disease-suffering cousin Red Bay (Persea borbonia). Red Bay leaves are grayish and usually hairy (or not) beneath instead of green and hairless, and Red Bay foliage stinks nasty when crushed as opposed to a gentle fragrance from smashed Lancewood. Lancewood ranges from South Florida down through the Caribbean Basin. Because I occasionally make primitive archery equipment, or used to, it interested me although perhaps not you, that prehistoric Floridians carved archery bows from the wood. Few species are good for that.
What Lancewood brought to mind today, although too early for fruits, was its blackish fruit sitting like a tiny golfball on a reddish tee. This is one of many examples of a pervasive theme in the plant world—fruits and seeds distributed by birds often are compositions in red and black. The colors can be on different organs depending on the species: variably on fruits, on stalks, or on seeds. For instance, in pokeweed the berries are black fruits on red stalks. CLICK Flowers pollinated by birds are often red too, but this is fruit day.
The world is too full of red-black birdophilic combos to go crazy listing them. A quick search through our dusty photo collections turned up enough examples to make the point based on local wild species. If the search were expanded to garden species or to species in other regions we’d be at it all day. Some pleasing Google-able examples beyond the scope of here and now include the fruits/seeds of some Clerodendrums, Ochna, and Peonies.
Now please enjoy a little black and red: