Florida Forest Trees

Torchwood  (Amyris elemifera)

Torchwood, also called sea amyris, grows as a large shrub or tree in tropical and coastal hammocks in Florida including the Keys, Bahamas, West Indies, and Central America. In Florida, torchwood is found on the west coast only in south Florida but on the east coast, it grows as far north as Flagler County.

Torchwood is in the Rutaceae family which includes the genus Citrus known for its citrus fruits and the genus Amyris, of which torchwood is a member, known for its resinous, fragrant juices. The

Twigs and leaves

very resinous wood of torchwood is used for fuel and the resinous branches make excellent torches, hence the common name. The species name, elemifera, is Greek for resin-bearing. Oils from the wood have some medicinal use.

In Florida, torchwood is highly valued because it is the primary food source for the rare and endangered, beautiful Schaus swallowtail butterfly. The attractive foliage and fragrant flowers of the torchwood entice many types of birds to eat the small, fleshy, aromatic fruit.

 Identifying Characteristics
Torchwood is a medium sized tree that can grow as tall as 40' to 50' but most often is never larger than a bushy shrub. It has a slender trunk, 10" to 15" in diameter.
The leaves are opposite, evergreen, and compound. The leaves are 2" to 4½" long and composed of three leaflets. Each leaflet is 1" to 2½" long and ovate to ovate to lanceolate in shape. The leaflets have a long, tapered apex, a rounded or wedge-shaped base, and smooth or finely toothed margins. The leathery leaflets are lustrous bright green above and dull green with glandular dots below.
The purple to black, round, cherry-like drupe is covered by a bluish, waxy bloom. The flesh is thin, fragrant, and edible.
The bark is thin, smooth, and brownish gray. On large trunks the bark has shallow furrows.
Torchwood grows on sandy, rocky soils near the ocean and high, rich hammocks farther inland.

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