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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - November 23, 2012

From: Murray, KY
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Plant Identification, Trees
Title: Identification of a tree in Florida with bell-shaped red flowers
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

A friend in Florida has asked about identification of a tree with a flower none of us have ever seen. It starts with a green pod, then flowers into, what looks to me like a Chinese lantern, or bell. It is not a Chinese Lantern Tree. The flower is mostly red with yellow edging and in creases. The flower petals are in a spiral. the stamen hangs below the edge of the flower and really does look like a bell clapper. Thank you for any help you might provide. (I was unable to save the pic as a JPEG)

ANSWER:

Our focus and expertise at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center are with plants native to North America.  Tropical and semi-tropical Florida is host to many introduced ornamental plants and I suspect the tree you are describing is one of them.  I did, however, search our Native Plant Database to see if I could find any match for the tree you describe.  You could do the same to see if you see any possibilities.   I did a COMBINATION SEARCH and chose "Florida" from the Select State or Province option, "Tree" from Habit (general appearance) and "Red", "Orange" and "Yellow" from Bloom Characteristics-Bloom Color.   I also did a search substituting "Shrub" for "Tree" in the search.  The only tree that I found that looked similar to your description was Rhododendron austrinum (Orange azalea).

Below are some possibilities for non-native trees with orange/red flowers that grow in Florida:

Cordia sebestena (Geiger tree)

Hibiscus tiliaceus (Sea hibiscus)

There are many species and cultivars of both Brugmansia and Datura that are shaped like the flowers in your description and that come in many different colors.  You can see some of them at Brugmansia Growers International and at DavesGarden.com.

One possibility is Brugmansia suaveolens (Angel trumpet) which does grow in Florida and comes in several colors.

If none of the above matches the tree that you have seen, you can visit our Plant Identification page to find links to several plant identification forums that will accept photos of plants, both native or non-native, for identification.

 

From the Image Gallery


Orange azalea
Rhododendron austrinum

Orange azalea
Rhododendron austrinum

Orange azalea
Rhododendron austrinum

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