Simarouba glauca: Paradise-Tree1

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

Introduction

The pinnately compound, 16-inch leaves of paradise-tree have multiple, three-inch-long, shiny, leathery, oblong leaflets which are reddish when young. An upright tree when young, paradise-tree ultimately reaches 50 feet in height with a 30-foot spread and creates a dense, rounded crown at maturity. The tiny, inconspicuous, yellow to creamy white, springtime blooms on this frost-sensitive tree are followed by small clusters of dark purple, one-inch-long, edible fruits. Although paradise-tree produces desirable shade, the seeds and fruits are messy and will stain hard surfaces, and the shallow surface roots are troublesome to sidewalks and driveways and make it difficult to operate a lawn mower beneath the canopy.

Figure 1. Full Form - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree
Figure 1.  Full Form - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree

General Information

Scientific name: Simarouba glauca

Pronunciation: sim-uh-ROO-buh GLAW-kuh

Common name(s): Paradise-tree

Family: Simaroubaceae

USDA hardiness zones: 10B through 11 (Figure 2)

Origin: native to Florida, the West Indies, southern Mexico, and Central America

Invasive potential: Native

Uses: tree lawn 4–6 feet wide; tree lawn > 6 ft wide; shade; specimen; street without sidewalk; highway median; attracts butterflies

Figure 2. Range
Figure 2.  Range

Description

Height: 40 to 50 feet

Spread: 25 to 30 feet

Crown uniformity: irregular

Crown shape: upright/erect, round

Crown density: moderate

Growth rate: moderate

Texture: coarse

Foliage

Leaf arrangement: alternate

Leaf type: even-pinnately compound; made up of 10–14 leaflets

Leaf margin: entire

Leaf shape: elliptic to oblong

Leaf venation: pinnate

Leaf type and persistence: evergreen

Leaf blade length: 6 to 16 inches; leaflets are 1 ½ to 3 inches

Leaf color: emerge red to orange, then turn dark green on top and paler green underneath

Fall color: no color change

Fall characteristic: not showy

Figure 3. New Growth - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree
Figure 3.  New Growth - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree

Figure 4. Leaf - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree
Figure 4.  Leaf - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree

Flower

Flower color: yellow to creamy white

Flower characteristics: showy; emerges in clusters on axillary and terminal panicles

Flowering: late winter to spring

Figure 5. Flower - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree
Figure 5.  Flower - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree

Fruit

Fruit shape: oval

Fruit length: 1 inch

Fruit covering: fleshy drupe

Fruit color: green turning dark purple when ripe

Fruit characteristics: attracts birds; not showy; fruit/leaves a litter problem

Fruiting: ripens in early summer

Figure 6. Fruit - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree
Figure 6.  Fruit - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/branches: branches droop; not showy; typically one trunk; no thorns

Bark: light brown to brownish gray and smooth, becoming rough with age

Pruning requirement: needed for strong structure

Breakage: susceptible to breakage

Current year twig color: brown

Current year twig thickness: thick

Wood specific gravity: unknown

Figure 7. Bark - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree
Figure 7.  Bark - Simarouba glauca: paradise-tree
Credit: Gitta Hasing

Culture

Light requirement: full sun to partial shade

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

Drought tolerance: moderate

Aerosol salt tolerance: high

Other

Roots: can form large surface roots

Winter interest: no

Outstanding tree: no

Ozone sensitivity: unknown

Verticillium wilt susceptibility: unknown

Pest resistance: free of serious pests and diseases

Use and Management

The coarse leaf texture and light green, compound foliage allows this tree to "stand out" in a crowd. It could be used as a boulevard or median street tree. Plant them on 25- to 30-foot centers to form a solid canopy above.

Paradise-tree grows in full sun or partial shade on almost any well-drained soil. A native to south Florida, it will grow quickly on rich soils high in organic matter and should be protected from frost. Large trees are reportedly difficult to establish from containers, but there are no scientific studies supporting this notion.

Propagation is by seed, which germinate easily and rapidly. Young plants or seedlings are easily transplanted.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases of major concern.

Reference

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

Footnotes

1. This document is ENH-748, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date November 1993. Revised December 2006 and December 2018. Visit the EDIS website at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu 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 #ENH-748

Date: 2019-03-27
Southern Trees Fact Sheets

Related Topics

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Contacts

  • Andrew Koeser