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STEMMADENIA litoralis

Image of Stemmadenia litoralis

Forest & Kim Starr

Family

Apocynaceae

Botanical Name

STEMMADENIA litoralis

Plant Common Name

Lechoso, Milkyway Tree

General Description

Called lechoso in Mexico because of its milky sap, the milkyway tree is prized for its vanilla-scented white flowers. A small evergreen tree with open branching and a rounded, tiered canopy, it hails from the humid coastal forests from Mexico to Colombia. The bark is initially smooth and grayish tan but becomes vertically fissured as the tree matures.

The wavy, oval leaves are deep glossy green and paper thin. Branch tips bear small clusters of flower buds any time of year when humidity is high and temperatures warm. Most flowering occurs from late spring into summer, often after rains break a dry spell. Each long, trumpet-shaped flower has five rounded, twisted petal lobes that barely overlap. The throat of the floral tube is light yellow. Pollinated flowers develop into paired fruit capsules of golden orange.

Grow milkyway tree in full sun to bright dappled shade. It grows well in organic-rich soils with average to excellent drainage and will tolerate both slightly acid and alkaline soils. Mulch will improve soil moisture and reduce weeds. This is a small tree best-suited to humid locations, both inland and near the coast. Its small mature size and pleasant foliage and flowers makes it an exceptional courtyard tree or accent plant for the tropical garden. Floral fragrance is strongest at dawn and dusk.

Characteristics

  • AHS Heat Zone

    12 - 9

  • USDA Hardiness Zone

    10 - 15

  • Sunset Zone

    H1, H2, 22, 23, 24

  • Plant Type

    Tree

  • Sun Exposure

    Full Sun, Partial Sun, Partial Shade

  • Height

    18'-24' / 5.5m - 7.3m

  • Width

    15'-20' / 4.6m - 6.1m

  • Bloom Time

    Indeterminate

  • Native To

    Mexico, Central America, South America

Growing Conditions

  • Soil pH

    Acidic, Neutral, Alkaline

  • Soil Drainage

    Well Drained

  • Soil type

    Loam, Sand

  • Tolerances

    Drought, Salt

  • Growth Rate

    Medium

  • Water Requirements

    Average Water

  • Habit

    Oval/Rounded

  • Seasonal Interest

    Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter

Ornamental Features

  • Flower Interest

    Showy

  • Flower Color

    White

  • Fruit Color

    Orange, Gold

  • Foliage Color (Spring)

    Green, Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Summer)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Fall)

    Dark Green

  • Foliage Color (Winter)

    Dark Green

  • Bark Color

    Tan, Gray

  • Fragrant Flowers

    Yes

  • Fragrant Fruit

    No

  • Fragrant Foliage

    No

  • Bark or Stem Fragrant

    No

  • Flower Petal Number

    Single

  • Repeat Bloomer

    Yes

  • Showy Fruit

    Yes

  • Edible Fruit

    No

  • Showy Foliage

    Yes

  • Foliage Texture

    Medium

  • Foliage Sheen

    Glossy

  • Evergreen

    Yes

  • Showy Bark

    Yes

Special Characteristics

  • Bark Texture

    Fissured

  • Usage

    Feature Plant, Shade Trees, Topiary / Bonsai / Espalier, Tropical

  • Sharp or Has Thorns

    No

  • Invasive

    No

  • Self-Sowing

    No