Stoppers

 

Among the plants native to South Florida, the Keys and the Caribbean are four species worthy of the highest distinction.  These are the stoppers, flowering and fruiting members of the Myrtle family.  They make ideal landscaping plants; once established, they need little care.  They are dependable bloomers and favored nectar and fruit sources for many animals.

In landscaping, they are multi-functional.  Use either as specimen pieces or background fillers.  Define areas, or create visual blocks with them.  Place them so the light filters pleasingly through the foliage, creating woodland shadows.    

Turn a portion of your yard into a wildlife refuge.  

 

Simpson's Stopper  Myrcianthes fragrans.  

This small, shrubby tree needs to be used more often, as everything about it is positive.  It blooms regularly throughout the year with a wonderful aroma.  Fragrant eucalyptusy leaves.  Edible, orange seeds.  Because it's evergreen, it's not as messy as oaks and other deciduous trees.  At the latitude of South Florida, it's an optimal choice.  At left below is a Simpson's Stopper in the landscaping here on our site.  It's about 12 ft. high right now, but will get up to 20' or taller.  To the right, is a close-up of the flowers on that same tree.  

 

 

The photo at left shows what a talented, multi-tasking plant the Simpson's Stopper really is.

Like people who are able do two things at once, like hold the crying baby and vacuum the floor, Simpson's Stopper can flower and fruit at the same time.

The flowers are a favorite of butterflies and other nectar-seekers.

The edible fruits have a sweet, citrusy, pine-like flavor.  Legend has it that the fruit, or the bark of these myrtle family trees were traditionally used to treat diarrhea (thus the name "stopper").  But, honestly, these reports vary, depending on which source you use.  My feeling is that this is really like stories of cannibalism in the village on the other side of the mountain. Everyone has heard the rumors, but no one has ever knowingly spoken with anyone who has actually made the tea, drunk it, and gotten rid of their intestinal distress. 

Because of  its distinct, red, peeling bark, and its many other positive features, Simpson's Stopper should be placed in a spot of prominence, such as just outside your picture window, or right in front of your house, next to the driveway, where you can admire it several times daily.

 

 

 

Simpson's Stoppers (along with all of the other stoppers) take trimming and shaping very well.  They can be encouraged to develop into a canopy tree, or be kept short and tightly rounded.

 

 

 

 

Here is a Simpson's Stopper that we are training into a canopy tree.  In this photo, it is 20' high with a canopy spread of 20', which makes it a perfectly balanced specimen.'

At left is a 3' high Simpson's Stopper hedge around a parking lot in Hollywood, Fla.

If you absolutely have to put in a hedge due to space or code requirements, then Simpson's Stopper is a much better choice than some of the other commonly used hedge materials.

Its growth is moderate, not fast, so it doesn't require a weekly trimming regimen. 

Insects and birds will still visit it, even if it is clipped like a poodle.

Its tendency toward multi-stem branching is entrancingly worth enhancing.

 
   

 


 

Spanish Stopper  Eugenia foetida

Columnar growth; small leaves in tight formation; wildly fragrant flowers; good salt-tolerance.  Plant in part-shade to full-sun.

 

Branches become positively wooly with flowers. There's some serious fragrance production underway here.

Fruits ripen from red to black toward the end of the rainy season.

Spanish stopper typically grows to 20 feet high.   The beauty of it is that it can be used as either a shrub or a tree.  Below left, a pair of spanish stoppers, about 7 feet high.   Below right, a trimmed-up 15-footer in front of our office.

At left is one, about 15 feet high by 8 feet wide.  Notice what a nice screening plant it makes.

 

 


 

Red Stopper  Eugenia rhombea

Called so because of the color of its new growth.  The red stopper tends to get to 15 feet in height.   Its growth habit is a little more open than the redberry and the spanish stoppers.  

 

New growth reflects the first light of the early morning sky.

Characteristic "drip tip" develops as the leaves get bigger.

With its varied colors, red stopper makes a striking accent shrub in partly shaded locations.  It won't need anything but light pruning for the first several years.   

Place one in a high-visibility area, such as outside your kitchen window, so you can look at it while you're washing the dishes.

 

Alternatively, you may train it to perform as a full, multi-hued, impenetrable screening.  The nudists in the colony on the other side of this barrier are safe from snoops. 

 

It has the same axillary flowers as the other stoppers, with fruits turning black when mature.

Red Stopper makes a good filler shrub.  Plant one outside your bedroom window and when it blooms, its nectar wafting on nocturnal zephyrs will fill your dreams, causing visions of sugarplums to dance in your head.  Here's one at right, tucked back in the corner.

Woodland rejuvenators can use groupings of red stopper to create a forest effect.
  Below, in 3-gal, at left, and in 7-gal., at right, are well-behaved red stoppers.  Consider carefully your planting location.  Treat them with the respect and honor they deserve, and they will be your faithful, life-long friends.   

 

 


 

Redberry Stopper  Eugenia confusa

One of the rarest, it tends toward columnar growth.  Fragrant flowers, red berries.

At left below, is a 20-foot tall specimen.  This one is more than 30 years old and has never been trimmed.  At right is a close-up of the trunk.  The foliage starts at about 12" above the ground.

That's a redberry stopper behind the lion in the photo at right.

New growth is an exciting red.

 

Flowers are sweet, nectar-laden, little honeys that will satisfy your olfactionary devices.

Red berries develop at regular intervals, creating a plant Mardi gras.  

 

Use redberry stoppers and become a Redberry Stopper Seed Source Operative.

 


 

White Stopper  Eugenia axillaris

Every good environmentalist has to have at least one of these on hand.  Major berry source for birds.  Its fragrance, coming from the evaporation of volatile oils from the leaves, tends toward musky, not sweet.  It has an organic, earthy, skunky smell you don't want to admit that you secretly like.

The flowers fill the air with a pleasant aroma.

Just like all of the other stoppers, new growth is red.  The name "white" stopper comes from the color of its bark.

White stopper makes a great screening element, blending well with the other plants.  Try to find it in the photo at right (close-ups below).

Plant one about ten feet away from your house. Combine a few with the other stoppers and make a path that winds through your forest.

Remember: all of these stoppers need little care once they are established (about 18 months).  

At left, in 7-gal. 5' high with multiple trunks to jumpstart your thicket

At right, in 20-gal., 8'+ planted height.

   

Forget about straight formal lines in the European style.  This is America.  Throw away your hedge clippers.

 

Go, Stoppers, Go!

 
e-mail: plants@plantcreations.com
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Coastal
Cold Damage
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Feedback
Fragrant Plants
Groundcovers
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In the Shadehouse
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Landscaping for Hurricanes
Managing Your Plants
Mealybug Destroyers
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Our Nursery
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References
Screening
Search Page
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Stone Planters
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What About the Environment?
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Last updated:  12/20/2011