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Botanical Spotlight: The Butterfly Tree – April

The butterfly tree (Erblichia odorata) is now in bloom on the Downtown Sarasota campus’ Great Lawn!

On your next visit, you will not be able to miss the bright pop of color that this handsome little tree brings to an otherwise vast expanse of green.  It blooms for us in the springtime, and its showstopping, incandescent orange flowers give off a sweet aroma, making it a favorite among hummingbirds and other pollinators. Called “Flor del Fuego” or the “Flower of Fire” in Spanish, this species originates in Central America, from Mexico to Panama, where it can be found growing from sea level up to 2000 meters in altitude. 

It is also a member of the Passifloraceae, a largely neotropical plant family best known for the largest genus in the family: the Passiflora, or passionflowers, with about 525 species, most of which are vines that are highly prized for their showy, unusual blooms.  The butterfly tree was first introduced to the horticulture trade in the late 20th century, but despite its fragrant beauty, it remains extremely rare in cultivation. The delicate orange flowers that appear at this time of year would make it a great addition in any tropical or subtropical garden.  

butterfly tree on great lawn
butterfly flower
Close Up of Butterfly Flower Erblichia odorata