Native plants of Cayman

Wild Coffee by Joanne Mercille

Birds are very fond of the seeds of this plant.

Wild Coffee / Casearia hirsuta

Height: 15 feet high X 8 feet wide
Growth habit: With graceful, horizontal, layered branching, this deciduous bush has large, tomentose leaves that are very soft to touch. The leaves falls late in the drought season and new lime-coloured leaves will return in the summer at the onset of rainy season.
Flowers: Several times a year, this tree will burst into aromatic clusters of cream flowers, yielding a leathery fruit that opens up to reveal a red, strawberry-like fleshy membrane and seeds.
Soil requirement: Well-drained, loamy soil
Light requirements: Full-sun to part-shade
Environment tolerance: Drought-tolerant
Nature attracting: Birds, butterflies and lizards
Status: Infrequent

Regionally found in northern South America (Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, north to Costa Rica) and the Caribbean. It is locally found on Grand Cayman.

Wild Coffee stands delicately straight with long, horizontal branching. White, scented blooms produce leathery fruits that open up to expose a showy red membrane and seeds, inviting birds that will quickly snatch them up. The long, soft leaves add interest.
A very similar bush, Casearia odorata, has glossy leaves and clusters of scented white or cream flowers with fruits that bear the same membrane and seeds.

This is an exceptionally beautiful small tree that has a horticultural place in any garden. If you like baby powder scent, you have found the tree for you. This soft, gently-scented tree – when in bloom – would add an interesting structure to a sunny or shady landscape. Butterflies, birds and lizards will visit it.

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Joanne Mercille
Mercille has called Grand Cayman home since 1997 and she has a keen interest in local flora. She is curator for the National Trust Herbarium and has created an online database for public viewing of the physical herbarium. She is also webmaster for and owns Caribbean Blooms – a native plant nursery. She is an avid gardener and member of the Garden Club of Grand Cayman.

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