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"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Spinach Tree Supplies Middle Story

That's right. There really is a plant called a spinach tree. It is said that the leaves are edible, but MUST be cooked first to avoid toxins. I haven't been courageous enough (or maybe hungry enough) to try it, so I have no recommendations along those lines. I can recommend the spinach tree for other reasons though. Filler for the middle story in my garden is one great reason to love spinach tree.
First, I'll supply a bit of back story about its origination in my garden. My spinach tree (Cnidoscolus aconitifolius) was grown from an 8" piece of branch I rooted. The small cutting was shared from a dear friend out of her very own garden. That small gift has turned out to be a surprise addition to the middle story. [The middle story is the space between the low-lying shrubs (the under-story) and the tall spreading canopy of tall oak trees.] I honestly had no idea the spinach tree would grow this large. It's sort of shading out a small Hawthorn tree in front of it and irises and Agapanthus underneath at this point, but I can move them if needed.

Isn't the perfectly-shaped crown a wonder in itself? It reminds me of a beach umbrella. It has grown like this naturally. I don't shape or prune it. The whole of it fascinates me. 

The multi-branching habit of the spinach tree supplies a haven for birds to find shelter. They use it as a stopping off point between the tall oaks and various dense shrubbery surrounding as they travel around through the garden.  Birds are delightful characters to attract to the garden. The more varied plant life, the more wildlife will feel welcome and safe.

Spinach tree is a member of the Euphorbia family. It is tender to frost or freezing conditions. Like so many great plants in Florida it loses its leaves and sustains damage, but returns quickly from established roots once spring returns. When drought conditions prevail, it requires no extra irrigation. Water conservation tops my priority list when deciding on suitable plants to put in the ground.

From the branches, small clusters of white flowers extend beyond the canopy on stiff stalks. The flowers blend into the background more than stand out as a focal point due to their insignificant size in comparison to the tree.
The unique shape of the leaves is extraordinary enough to find room for at least one spinach tree in the garden.  Apparently those small white flowers have more zing than my human eye detects. Butterflies of all varieties and small pollinators swarm the flowers that steadily bloom from spring through fall. That's what prompted me to plant two more (rooted cuttings from this tree) in the front garden.

Whether you want to eat the leaves or admire them, I recommend this Florida-Friendly tree that delights wildlife and grows without fuss in filtered light conditions. You might have to start small like I did with a cutting from a gardening friend. I don't think I've ever seen spinach tree in a garden center.

Happy gardening,


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  1. What a great little tree. I've never seen it at garden centers either.

    Another winner from your lovely gardens.


  2. What an amazing shape that tree is. Another Florida-friendly marvel.

  3. What a neat plant! I'd never heard of it before. I love its perfect shape and interesting leaves. It looks so pretty the way you've placed it, with the caladiums growing below it.

  4. Hey! you just wrote about one of our favorite neglect-loving plants! We grow the "stinging" chaya brava and the non-stinging chaya mansa types and we DO eat ours! Which is yours, does it have nettle-like stinging hairs on its underleaf or not? DO try it like you would eat sure not to cook it in aluminum and the only thing to remember is to cook it by boiling at least 15 minutes (simmer after first boil). It is not only completely safe after that, it is more nutritious than almost ANY other cooked green!! It has no strong flavor so it can be experimented with in soooo many ways. let us know when you try it...we're always up for trying new ways to cook ours, too! Aren't they lovely? Even if they were not edible we'd have lots of them anyway because they have such a beautiful natural shape and always attract Gulf fritillary butterflies like magnets <3

  5. I found my Spinach Tree for sale at USF's Garden Shop while visiting their gardens in Tampa several years ago. It was called a Malay Spinach plant. It has been sensitive
    to cold, but has always come back. It is a great butterfly attractor. Love your pictures of this wonderful plant.

  6. I don't think I've encountered this tree yet. It's surprising you mentioned that you hadn't pruned it. I was looking at the picture right before and appreciating the tree top symmetry. You are right that it is amazing that it is a natural look. Wow!

  7. I like the shape of the spinach tree from afar. And you get to see many birds that perch there!

  8. Beautiful garden, green fantastic images :) Regards

  9. it´s really Interesting to see ... thank you it's well done :)


Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway