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Eugenia foetida: Spanish Stopper1

Edward F. Gilman, Dennis G. Watson, Ryan W. Klein, Andrew K. Koeser, Deborah R. Hilbert, and Drew C. McLean 2


Spanish stopper grows in south Florida on limestone soils in hardwood hammocks as an understory tree, reaching 12 to 20 feet in height. However, it is perfectly adapted to more open, sunny locations where it will flourish with little care once it becomes established. Reddish twigs bear tiny green leaves and berries less than ¼ inch diameter. Several stems arise from the lower part of the tree forming a multiple trunked tree well adapted for many landscapes.

Figure 1. Full Form—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper
Figure 1.  Full Form—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper

General Information

Scientific name: Eugenia foetida

Pronunciation: yoo-JEE-nee-uh FET-tid-uh

Common name(s): Spanish stopper, boxleaf stopper

Family: Myrtaceae

Plant type: tree

USDA hardiness zones: 10 through 11 (Figure 2)

Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round

Origin: native to Florida, the West Indies, Yucatan, Belize, and Guatemala

UF/IFAS Invasive Assessment Status: native

Uses: residential street tree; near a deck or patio; superior hedge; 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); narrow tree lawns (3–4 feet wide); medium-sized tree lawns (4–6 feet wide); wide tree lawns (> 6 feet wide); recommended for buffer strips around parking lots or for median strip plantings in the highway; screen

Figure 2. Shaded area represents potential planting range.
Figure 2.  Shaded area represents potential planting range.


Height: 12 to 20 feet

Spread: 8 to 15 feet

Plant habit: vase shape; oval

Plant density: moderate

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: medium



Leaf arrangement: opposite/subopposite

Leaf type: simple

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: elliptic (oval)

Leaf venation: none, or difficult to see

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 1 to 2 inches

Leaf color: green to dark green on top, yellow green underneath

Fall color: no fall color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. Leaf—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper
Figure 3.  Leaf—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper


Flower color: white

Flower characteristic: slightly fragrant; emerges in axillary racemes

Flowering: summer

Figure 4. Flower—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper
Figure 4.  Flower—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper


Fruit shape: round

Fruit length: 1/3 inch

Fruit cover: fleshy berry

Fruit color: reddish orange, turning brown or black when ripe

Fruit characteristic: suited for human consumption; attracts birds

Fruiting: late summer to winter

Figure 5. Fruit—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper
Figure 5.  Fruit—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: showy; no thorns

Bark: gray, smooth, sometimes mottled, and exfoliates thin plates that reveal orange inner bark

Current year stem/twig color: reddish

Current year stem/twig thickness: thin

Figure 6. Bark—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper
Figure 6.  Bark—Eugenia foetida Spanish stopper
Credit: Gritta Hasing


Light requirement: partial shade

Soil tolerances: acidic; alkaline; sand; loam; clay; moist but well-drained

Drought tolerance: high

Soil salt tolerances: unknown

Aerosol salt tolerance: high

Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


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

The smooth, brown to grey, mottled bark and tight canopy of fine-textured leaves makes Spanish stopper well suited for planting as a specimen in any yard. Old bark exfoliates showing fresh, smooth orange bark below. It is commonly used as a hedge due to the small leaves and branchiness. Trees can be trained in the nursery to one central trunk or allowed and encouraged to develop multiple trunks. They create shade for a patio or deck, but will not grow to the large, often overpowering size of a large tree such as a fig. They are often used along streets, in highway medians and in parking lots because they adapt to small soil spaces and do not become very large. Street and parking lot trees are often specified to have one trunk to allow for vehicle clearance beneath the crown.

Multiple trunked trees are often specified for specimen planting so the beautiful bark can be displayed. Plants are adapted to most soils from acidic to alkaline.

Once they are established in the landscape, they require little care.

Pest and Diseases

There are no major problems growing this tree.


Koeser, A.K., Friedman, M.H., Hasing, G., Finley, H., Schelb, J. 2017. Trees: South Florida and the Keys. University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences.


1. This document is FPS-200, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Revised December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at for the currently supported version of this publication.
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor emeritus, Environmental Horticulture Department; Dennis G. Watson, former associate professor, Agricultural Engineering Department; Ryan W. Klein, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department; Andrew K. Koeser, assistant professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Gulf Coast Research and Education Center; Deborah R. Hilbert, graduate assistant, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; and Drew C. McLean, biological scientist, Environmental Horticulture Department, GCREC; UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #FPS-200

Date: 4/15/2019

      Organism ID


      • Gail Hansen de Chapman