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Capparis cynophallophora Jamaican Caper

Edward F. Gilman, Ryan W. Klein, and Gail Hansen

Introduction

This 6 to 20 foot-tall, native shrub is an upright to spreading plant that is related to plants producing edible capers. The evergreen leaves of the Jamaica caper are light green above, with fine brown scales below. These glossy, oval leaves are folded together when they first emerge and give the plant's new growth a bronze appearance. The leaves also have a notched tip. Twigs are brownish gray and pubescent. Jamaica caper flowers have very showy, two-inch-long, purple stamens, white anthers, and white petals. The inflorescence is comprised of terminal clusters consisting of 3 to 10 individual flowers. The fruits are 3 to 8 inch long cylindrical pods containing small brown seeds that are embedded in a scarlet pulp.

Leaf—Capparis cynophallophora: Jamaican Caper
Figure 1. Leaf—Capparis cynophallophora: Jamaican Caper
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

 

Leaf—Capparis cynophallophora: Jamaican Caper
Figure 2. Leaf—Capparis cynophallophora: Jamaican Caper
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Capparis cynophallophora

Pronunciation: KAP-ar-riss sin-oh-fal-oh-FOR-uh

Common name(s): Jamaican caper

Family: Capparidaceae

Plant type: tree

USDA hardiness zones: 10 through 11 (Figure 3)

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: native to Florida

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

Uses: near a deck or patio; screen; border; attracts butterflies; recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; 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)

Availability: generally available in many areas within its hardiness range

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 3. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Credit: undefined

Description

Height: 6 to 15 feet

Spread: 8 to 12 feet

Plant habit: vase shape

Plant density: dense

Growth rate: slow

Texture: medium

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: obovate

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 2 to 4 inches

Leaf color: green

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Flower

Flower color: white

Flower characteristic: spring flowering

Fruit

Fruit shape: pod or pod-like

Fruit length: 3 to 6 inches

Fruit cover: dry or hard

Fruit color: unknown

Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: typically multi-trunked or clumping stems; not particularly showy

Current year stem/twig color: brown

Current year stem/twig thickness: medium

Culture

Light requirement: plant grows in part shade/part sun

Soil tolerances: acidic; slightly alkaline; sand; loam; clay

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: unknown

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches

Other

Roots: usually not a problem

Winter interest: no special winter interest

Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding

Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Jamaica caper can be utilized as an understory tree in the partial shade. Train the plant into a tree by removing low, drooping branches, and heading upright branches to thicken their diameter. It can also be clipped into a hedge or tall screen to block an undesirable view.

Grow Capparis cynophallophora in an area that receives full sun to medium shade. This plant performs well in soils with good drainage and can tolerate cold temperatures to 28°F. It is also drought resistant and responds to fertilizer with vigorous growth.

Propagate the Jamaica caper by seeds.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.

Publication #FPS104

Release Date:March 8th, 2023

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: Agricultural and Food Systems
Fact Sheet

About this Publication

This document is FPS104, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised March 2023. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus; Ryan W. Klein, assistant professor; and Gail Hansen, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Contacts

  • Gail Hansen de Chapman