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Licani michauxii Gopher Apple1

Edward F. Gilman 2


Gopher apple is an upright, evergreen plant that attains a height of 3 to 12 inches. This Florida native has stout, underground stems from which arise slender aerial shoots. The stiff leaves are a lustrous green color and have an oblong, spatulate shape. The undersides of these leaves are glabrous or felty-pubescent, and the leaf margins are shallowly undulate to entire. Inconspicuous, green flowers appear on this plant in the summer and are followed by ellipsoid drupes that are .5 to 1 inch long. Gopher apple has a very high salt spray tolerance and is ideal for coastal landscapes.

General Information

Scientific name: Licania michauxii
Pronunciation: lye-KAY-nee-uh miss-SHOW-ee-eye
Common name(s): gopher apple, ground oak
Family: Chrysobalanaceae
Plant type: shrub; ground cover
USDA hardiness zones: 8B through 11 (Fig. 1)
Planting month for zone 8: year round
Planting month for zone 9: year round
Planting month for zone 10 and 11: year round
Origin: native to Florida
Uses: ground cover
Availability: grown in small quantities by a small number of nurseries

Figure 1. Shaded area represents potential range.
Figure 1.  Shaded area represents potential range.


Height: 0 to 1 feet
Spread: depends upon supporting structure
Plant habit: upright
Plant density: moderate
Growth rate: moderate
Texture: medium


Leaf arrangement: alternate
Leaf type: simple
Leaf margin: undulate
Leaf shape: spatulate
Leaf venation: reticulate
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 color: green
Flower characteristic: summer flowering


Fruit shape: oval

Fruit length: .5 to 1 inch

Fruit cover: fleshy

Fruit color: unknown

Fruit characteristic: inconspicuous and not showy

Trunk and Branches

Trunk/bark/branches: not particularly showy; typically multitrunked or clumping stems
Current year stem/twig color: not applicable
Current year stem/twig thickness: not applicable


Light requirement: plant grows in full sun
Soil tolerances: acidic; slightly alkaline; sand; loam
Drought tolerance: high
Soil salt tolerances: unknown
Plant spacing: 36 to 60 inches


Roots: usually not a problem
Winter interest: no special winter interest
Outstanding plant: not particularly outstanding
Invasive potential: not known to be invasive
Pest resistance: no serious pests are normally seen on the plant

Use and Management

Gopher apple can be used as a ground cover along the coast. It tolerates a wide range of soil pH in any well-drained soil.

Gopher apple will grow well in full sun on well-drained, sandy soils. It is quite drought tolerant but may not transplant well. Plants should establish well from containers.

Pests and Diseases

No pests or diseases are of major concern.


1. This document is FPS-342, one of a series of the Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension. Original publication date October 1999. Reviewed February 2014. Visit the EDIS website at
2. Edward F. Gilman, professor, Environmental Horticulture Department, UF/IFAS Extension, Gainesville, FL 32611.

Publication #FPS-342

Date: 8/4/2015

      Organism ID


      • Gail Hansen de Chapman