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Publication #FPS181

Dodonaea viscosa Varnish Leaf, Hopbush1

Edward F. Gilman2

Introduction

The shiny green leaves of this shrub have a varnished appearance that gives this plant its most widely used common name. The Varnish-Leaf is a fast growing, broad-leaved, evergreen shrub that can grow 10- to 15-feet tall. It is most commonly seen at about 6- to 10-feet tall. The “varnished” leaves of this plant have a resinous coating that is a protection against water loss, and this allows the plants to be exceptionally drought tolerant. Leaves vary in shape from spatulate to elliptic or obovate. Margins of the leaves are often turned under. Greenish yellow flowers are without true petals and appear in terminal clusters that are 3 inches in length. This shrub blooms in the spring and fall, and flowers on the same plant may be male, female, or perfect. The most outstanding part of this plant is the pendent fruit. These emerge green, turn yellow green, then pink and red, and then brown as they mature. The three-parted seed pods have 3 or 4 rounded wings.

General Information

Scientific name: Dodonaea viscosa
Pronunciation: doe-DOE-nee-uh viss-KOE-suh
Common name(s): Varnish-Leaf, Hopbush
Family: Sapindaceae
Plant type: tree
USDA hardiness zones: 9 through 11 (Fig. 1)
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: native to Florida
Uses: specimen; espalier; small parking lot islands (< 100 square feet in size); medium-sized parking lot islands (100-200 square feet in size); large parking lot islands (> 200 square feet in size); screen
Availability: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Description

Height: 10 to 15 feet
Spread: 6 to 15 feet
Figure 1. 

Shaded area represents potential planting range.


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]
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: fine

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: entire
Leaf shape: oblanceolate; obovate; spatulate
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

Flower color: yellow
Flower characteristic: summer flowering; fall flowering; spring flowering

Fruit

Fruit shape: pod or pod-like
Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch
Fruit cover: dry or hard
Fruit color: green; red; yellow
Fruit characteristic: showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; can be trained to grow with a short, single trunk; no horns
Current year stem/twig color: green
Current year stem/twig thickness: thin

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam;
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: not applicable

Other

Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: plant has outstanding ornamental features and could be planted more
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

One may use Varnish Leaf as a specimen due to its nice fruit display. The plant is also attractive when it is not in fruit. Planted 5 to 8 feet apart, Varnish-Leaf makes a nice hedge or background plant, and it is very effective when employed as a screen. It is can also be grown in fence rows and is interesting when espaliered. It is a useful plant that is underutilized.

Dodonaea viscosa will tolerate dry sandy or rocky soils, salt spray, windy areas, and drought conditions. It favors areas that receive full sun and is often cultivated in loamy or sandy soils.

Dodonaea viscosa 'Purpurea' has been called the most popular cultivar of the Dodonaea genus. It its currently most popular in the western US. Seedlings can vary a lot in color, and purple-leafed varieties will turn green in full shade. It has a wide tolerance for different soils, winds and heat, and, when established, will be drought-resistant. The plant is used in landscapes in the western United States.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.

Footnotes

1.

This document is FPS181, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture, Florida Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida. Original publication date October 1999. Revised June 2007. Reviewed June 2011. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, Cooperative Extension Service, Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences, University of Florida, 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.