589 Duranta erectaCommon Names: golden dewdrop, pigeonberry, skyflower Family: Verbenaceae (verbena or vervain Family)
Golden dewdrop is a sprawling, sometimes vinelike tender evergreen shrub or small tree that can get up to 18 ft (5.5 m) tall and just as wide. It usually forms a multi-stemmed clump with branches that droop and trail. The ovate leaves are 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) long and arranged on the stem in pairs opposite each other, or in whorls of three. Some bushes are quite spiny, and some have no spines at all. The showy flowers bloom almost all year long in terminal or lateral clusters (racemes, actually) up to 6 in (15.2 cm) long. The individual flowers are tubular with five petals, light blue to violet or purple, and flare out at the mouth about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) across. The fruit is a spherical yellow drupe about 0.5 in (1.3 cm) in diameter borne in showy hanging bunches.
The cultivar, 'Alba' has white flowers, 'Grandiflora' has larger flowers, about 3/4 in (1.9 cm), and 'Variegata' has variegated leaves.
Golden dewdrop, Duranta erecta, is native to scrub and open woodlands in the West Indies and Central and South America. It occurs also in disturbed areas in southern Florida where it is generally believed to have been introduced, although some authors have suggested that it might be native to the Florida Keys. Golden dewdrop also has become established in southern Texas.
CultureGolden dewdrop is easy to grow and requires little care. It tends to sprawl and will need regular thinning and pruning to keep it under control. Light: Does best in full sun. Tolerates partial shade. Moisture: Needs regular watering. Golden dewdrop is only moderately drought tolerant. Hardiness: USDA Zones 9 - 11. In Zone 8 the shrub dies to ground after hard freezes but resprouts in spring. It typically recovers quickly enough to bloom, but probably not set berries, by the following season's first frost. Propagation: Golden dewdrop can be grown from seeds or started with cuttings from semi-hard wood in summer. It also can be propagated by layering in spring.
Golden dewdrop is used as a small street tree in southern Florida. It is often used as a specimen shrub or in a hedge or windbreak. Create a mixed hedge for butterflies and hummingbirds with golden dewdrop and other flowering shrubs such as firebush (Hamelia patens), butterflybush (Buddleja davidii), firespike (Odontonema strictum), ixora (Ixora spp.), and cape honeysuckle (Tecomaria capensis). It makes a fast-growing screen. Golden dewdrop is grown as an espalier against a wall and is often grown in a planter on the patio. Golden dewdrop tolerates acidic to slightly alkaline soils and is moderately salt tolerant.
This is a very showy shrub with pretty blue flowers that attract butterflies and bright golden berries that are relished by songbirds - both often present on the plant at the same time. Golden dewdrop is recommended as a nectar plant in subtropical butterfly gardens. Individual plants may sprawl, but it is not invasive.
The attractive fruits are poisonous to humans. Do not use this shrub in childrens' play areas.
Steve Christman 11/19/99; updated 10/26/03