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An orange-flowering tree in bloom now – the Geiger Tree

To continue the theme of orange-flowering woody plants from last week, let me introduce you to the Geiger tree or Cordia sebestena.  In bloom right now with bright orange flower clusters, this medium-sized tree is ideally suited to coastal areas, not only due to the warmer temperatures required, but also because of its tolerance to salty and brackish conditions.  The Geiger tree is truly eye-catching to both the novice and seasoned gardener.

Geiger tree fruit

Odd white, egg-shaped inedible fruit follow the flower show

How would I describe a Geiger tree?  The Geiger tree is rarely over twenty-five feet tall in our area with a similar width.  A mature specimen is dense and rounded with up to nine-inch long, rough-textured leaves.  On and off throughout the year, with a main flowering event occurring in spring and summer, two-inch wide orange flowers cluster at the ends of branches for maximum visibility.  After the show of bright orange flowers reported to be attractive to hummingbirds, oddly ornamental inedible egg-shaped fruits develop and adorn the tree.   Good as a specimen tree in a lawn area, for a patio, or even a very large container, Geiger trees offer a spectacular showcase planting.  Due to its temperature requirements best found in Hardiness Zone 10b, Geiger trees should be grown in warmer coastal areas.  If you live further inland there must be a suitable warm microclimate – Geiger trees do not like a frost and will not tolerate it!  There is a cold-hardy type of Geiger tree called the Texas Olive or Cordia boissieri.  The Texas Olive is not a true olive, but a white-flowering version of the orange Geiger tree much better adapted as a substitute for inland sites.

In addition to its ability to grow well on the coast, it is also known to be very wind resistant – another good feature in our area.  Geiger trees are highly drought tolerant.  If a drought occurs, this tree may simply drop its leaves for a short period of time as a survival technique.  Overall, this tree is considered a slow grower, so be patient as it develops into maturity.  If you are patient, Geiger trees can be propagated by seed.  It is also a candidate for vegetative propagation via air-layering.

The Geiger tree is not readily available at most box store garden centers but may be found at local and regional family-run nurseries and larger area garden centers.

The Geiger tree may be on your “bucket list”.  Take a look at one and you will likely be a new fan of this Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ approved tree!    For more information on all types of flower trees in our area, or to ask a question, please visit https://www.facebook.com/CharlotteMGLifeline/ .   Ralph E. Mitchell is the Director/Horticulture Agent for the UF/IFAS Charlotte County Extension Service. He can be reached at 941-764-4344 or ralph.mitchell@charlottecountyfl.gov.

Resources:
Gilman, E. F., Watson, D. G., Klein, R. W., Koeser, A. K., Hilbert, D. R. & McLean, D. C. (2018) Cordia sebestena: Geiger Tree.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Gilman, E. F., Watson, D. G., Klein, R. W., Koeser, A. K., Hilbert, D. R. & McLean, D. C. (2018) Cordia boissieri: Texas Olive.  The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
The Florida-Friendly Landscaping™ Guide to Plant Selection & Landscape Design. (2010) The University of Florida Extension Service, IFAS.
Landre, C. (2021)  Geiger Tree – Cordia spp. South-Florida-Plant-Guide.com.