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Publication #ENH341

Cordia sebestena: Geiger Tree1

Edward F. Gilman and Dennis G. Watson2

Introduction

This dense, rounded, evergreen native tree grows slowly to a height of 25 feet with an equal spread and can develop a trunk 12 inches thick. The large, 7-inch-long, stiff, dark green leaves are rough and hairy, feeling much like sandpaper. Appearing throughout the year, but especially in spring and summer, are dark orange, 2-inch-wide flowers which appear in clusters at branch tips. The splendid flowers are followed by one to 2-inch-long, pear-shaped fruits, which have a pleasant fragrance but are not particularly tasty.

Figure 1. 

Young Cordia sebestena: Geiger-Tree


Credit:

Ed Gilman, UF/IFAS


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

General Information

Scientific name: Cordia sebestena
Pronunciation: KOR-dee-uh seb-ess-TAY-nuh
Common name(s): Geiger tree
Family: Boraginaceae
USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Fig. 2)
Origin: native to North America
Invasive potential: little invasive potential
Uses: container or planter; street without sidewalk; deck or patio; shade; specimen; parking lot island < 100 sq ft; parking lot island 100–200 sq ft; parking lot island > 200 sq ft; sidewalk cutout (tree pit); tree lawn 3–4 feet wide; tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; highway median
Availability: somewhat available, may have to go out of the region to find the tree

Figure 2. 

Range


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Description

Height: 25 to 30 feet
Spread: 20 to 25 feet
Crown uniformity: symmetrical
Crown shape: round, vase
Crown density: moderate
Growth rate: slow
Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate (Fig. 3)
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: undulate
Leaf shape: ovate, cordate
Leaf venation: brachidodrome, pinnate
Leaf type and persistence: evergreen, broadleaf evergreen
Leaf blade length: 4 to 8 inches
Leaf color: green
Fall color: no color change
Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. 

Foliage


[Click thumbnail to enlarge.]

Flower

Flower color: orange
Flower characteristics: very showy

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval
Fruit length: 1 to 3 inches
Fruit covering: dry or hard
Fruit color: white/gray, green
Fruit characteristics: does not attract wildlife; showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: branches droop; not showy; can be trained to one trunk; thorns
Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure
Breakage: resistant
Current year twig color: brown
Current year twig thickness: medium
Wood specific gravity: 0.70

Culture

Light requirement: full sun, partial sun, or partial shade
Soil tolerances: clay; sand; loam; alkaline; acidic; well-drained
Drought tolerance: high
Aerosol salt tolerance: high

Other

Roots: not a problem
Winter interest: no
Outstanding tree: no
Ozone sensitivity: unknown
Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown
Pest resistance: resistant to pests/diseases

Use and Management

Geiger tree is quite salt- and brackish-water tolerant, making it ideal for use in coastal landscapes as a free-standing specimen, patio or framing tree. Most specimens are seen as multitrunked and low-branching but nurseries can produce single-trunked trees suitable for downtown and parking lots. It has been used as a street tree in some communities but drops leaves as a drought-avoidance strategy in prolonged dry spells. According to legend, the common name was bestowed by Audubon in commemoration of John Geiger, a Key West pilot and wrecker of the 19th century and is now used quite universally as the common name for this excellent Florida native tree.

Growing in full sun to partial shade, geiger tree is tolerant of light, sandy, alkaline soils and salt-spray. It is highly recommended for seaside plantings. Do not plant where there is the slightest danger of frost.

Cordia boissieri is frost-resistant (tolerating temperatures in the high 20's) and has stunning white flowers with yellow centers.

Propagation is by seeds or layering.

Pests

Mites, scales, and caterpillars will occasionally attack geiger tree. The geiger beetle defoliates the tree upon occasion but the trees generally grow out of it and do fine. The problem can be locally troublesome.

Diseases

No diseases are of major concern.

Footnotes

1.

This document is ENH341, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Reviewed May 2014. Visit the EDIS website at http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu.

2.

Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering 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.