by Sharon LaPlante
gopher apple, Licania michauxii,
is a native ground cover. Ground
oak is another common name. It is
The name, Michauxii, honors Andre Michaux a French botanist who originally described the plant in the late 1700ís. Michauxii was originally to take part in the renowned Lewis & Clark expedition, but was exposed as a French spy shortly before the expedition took place and was replaced by an American.
Gopher apple spreads by its primary stems. The primary stems of the plant grow under ground, creeping and spreading to form a ground cover. When branchlets from the primary stems do reach above the ground they only grow three to twelve inches in height. It is a slow grower, but is drought tolerant once established.
Central and North Florida it is generally semi-evergreen.
the foliage is evergreen in
southern Florida. The leaves
grow alternately and resemble a narrow oak leaf.
Leaf sizes vary from one and a half inches to four inches in
length. A waxy cuticle on the upper surface of the leaves gives them
a glossy appearance, as well as tolerance to extreme drought.
blooms are clusters of small yellowish-white to greenish-white flowers
that appear in May and June.
fruit, when ripe, is an ivory color with tinges of red or purple.
It is oval in shape, up to one inch in length, and contains a
single pit. The fruit is sought after by many animals including the
gopher tortoise. Humans also
consume the fruit, but they are usually difficult to find because the
tortoises, raccoons, opossums, foxes and other animals eat them quickly. Some people find them unpalatable and relate the smell to the
aroma of a new plastic shower curtain.
apple is an often overlooked ground cover of sandhills, scrub, coastal
dunes and high pine ecosystems of Florida.
It is also found in Georgia and Mississippi.
It thrives in barren soil, in full sun, from acid scrub habitat to
alkaline beach dune habitat.
It is extremely difficult to transplant, and equally difficult to produce root cuttings. The best chance at propagation is through seed. Seeds should be planted on site at the depth of 2 inches. Many native plant nurseries in our area carry gopher apple for immediate landscape use.
Bees, flies & wasps use the flowers for nectar and the fruit is an important wildlife food.
In the landscape it grows in shade to full sun with moist or dry, sandy or organic soils.
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