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Publication #FPS-48

Ardisia escallonioides Marlberry1

Edward F. Gilman2


Marlberry is a 12- to 15-foot-tall shrub native to Florida and the Caribbean region that has a very important place in planting design. It often occurs naturally with sabal palms and stoppers. The dark green, semiglossy leaves of this shrub are 3 to 4 ½ inches long. The small, white, fragrant flowers occur in dense terminal panicles that are 5 inches in length. Flowers are borne at intervals throughout the year but do not last very long. In the late spring this plant bears its small purple fruit.

General Information

Scientific name: Ardisia escallonioides
Pronunciation: ar-DIZ-ee-uh ess-kal-lon-ee-OY-deez
Common name(s): Marlberry, Marbleberry
Family: Myrsinaceae
Plant type: tree
USDA hardiness zones: 10 through 11 (Fig. 1)
Planting month for zone 7: year round
Planting month for zone 8: year round
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: native to Florida
Uses: hedge; near a deck or patio; specimen; screen; attracts butterflies; border
Availability: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Figure 1. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.

[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]


Height: 12 to 20 feet
Spread: 6 to 12 feet
Plant habit: oval
Plant density: symmetrical habit with a regular (or smooth) outline and individuals having more or less identical forms
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)
Leaf venation: pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no fall color change
Fall characteristic: not showy


Flower color: white
Flower characteristic: pleasant fragrance; flowers periodically throughout the year


Fruit shape: round
Fruit length: less than .5 inch
Fruit cover: fleshy
Fruit color: red
Fruit characteristic: suited for human consumption; attracts birds

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping
stems; not particularly showy; no thorns
Current year stem/twig color: green
Current year stem/twig thickness: medium


Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam
Drought tolerance: moderate
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Marlberry is great in mixed group and background plantings. It can be trained into a small tree by removing lower foliage and branches to expose the interesting trunk pattern. The multiple trunks become an interesting element in the landscape, and they look nice lighted at night. Space them 15 feet apart along an entrance road or sidewalk to create a nice linear planting of multi-trunked small trees. Since they will remain quite dense even in the partial shade, they make a great screen for residential landscapes.

This shrub prefers well-drained soils and a semi-shade to full sun location in the landscape. It will grow in soils with a wide pH range from a sandy humus to calcareous shell and is fast growing.

Marlberry is easily propagated from seed.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.



This document is FPS-48, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at


Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

The Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (IFAS) is an Equal Opportunity Institution authorized to provide research, educational information and other services only to individuals and institutions that function with non-discrimination with respect to race, creed, color, religion, age, disability, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, national origin, political opinions or affiliations. For more information on obtaining other UF/IFAS Extension publications, contact your county's UF/IFAS Extension office.

U.S. Department of Agriculture, UF/IFAS Extension Service, University of Florida, IFAS, Florida A & M University Cooperative Extension Program, and Boards of County Commissioners Cooperating. Nick T. Place, dean for UF/IFAS Extension.