The 500th species observed through our citizen-science initiative, Project Stay Planted (big shout-out to participants!), is a South Florida favorite with a bit of lore behind it.
The milestone observation was a Geiger tree, Cordia sebestena, a compact tree whose native range includes the Keys, the Caribbean, and parts of South America. We in southern Florida have the distinction of being the only place in the continental U.S. where the Geiger flourishes. The tree is salt tolerant, drought tolerant, and loves our heat, releasing its blooms as temperatures rise.
Legend has it that John Jay Audubon was enamored with the Cordia, which he reportedly spotted growing on the property of his friend, Capt. James Huling Geiger, and named the tree for him. Geiger served as Key West’s first harbor captain. Geiger’s home is now The Audubon House Museum & Tropical Gardens, where you can see the legendary naturalist’s art including the white-crowned pigeon painting that features a Geiger tree in the background.
You, too, can discover all sorts of fun facts about the region’s plants, but you need to start by learning their names. Project Stay Planted, using the iNaturalist app, will teach you just that. See our Project Stay Planted page for more information.
About the Author
Jennifer Reed is the Editorial Director of Naples Botanical Garden and a longtime Southwest Florida journalist.