AskIFAS Powered by EDIS

Dodonaea viscosa Varnish Leaf, Hopbush

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


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 15feet tall. It is most commonly seen at about 6 to 10feet 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.

Full Form - Dodonaea viscosa: Varnish Leaf, Hopbush
Figure 1. Full Form - Dodonaea viscosa: Varnish Leaf, Hopbush
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Leaf - Dodonaea viscosa: Varnish Leaf, Hopbush
Figure 2. Leaf - Dodonaea viscosa: Varnish Leaf, Hopbush
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS


Flower - Dodonaea viscosa: Varnish Leaf, Hopbush
Figure 3. Flower - Dodonaea viscosa: Varnish Leaf, Hopbush
Credit: Edward F. Gilman, UF/IFAS

General Information

Scientific name: Dodonaea viscosa

Pronunciation: doe-DOE-nee-uh viss-KOE-suh

Common name(s): varnish leaf, hopbush, Florida hopbush

Family: Sapindaceae

Plant type: tree

USDA hardiness zones: 9 through 11 (Figure 4)

Planting month for zone 9: year round

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: native to Florida

Invasive potential: not known to be invasive

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

Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 4. Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 10 to 15 feet

Spread: 6 to 15 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: fine


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 color: yellow

Flower characteristic: summer flowering; fall flowering; spring flowering


Fruit shape: pod or pod-like

Fruit length: 1/2 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


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun

Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: unknown

Plant spacing: not applicable


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 is currently most popular in the western U.S. 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, 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.

Publication #FPS181

Release Date:October 18, 2023

Related Collections

Part of Shrubs Fact Sheets

Related Topics

  • Critical Issue: 1. Agricultural and Horticultural Enterprises
Organism ID

About this Publication

This document is FPS181, one of a series of the Department of Environmental Horticulture, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised October 2023. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.

About the Authors

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


  • Gail Hansen de Chapman