Sunday, July 13, 2014

Duranta erecta aka Sky Flower, Golden Dewdrop, and Pigeon Berry

With its lush green leaves,
 its delicate purple/blue flowers which smell of chocolate and licorice, 
and its peach colored berries,
Duranta and rose, a pretty pair.
duranta is a favorite shrub of mine. 
Duranta erecta is a top performer in my yard. I live in the Los Angeles area (zone 10) and it grows rapidly each year to 15 ft tall and 10 ft wide. It tends to grow in a round habit with multiple stems. I prune it once in the late summer to try to keep it around 7 ft high and wide. The picture above was taken yesterday and I would guess it is about 10 ft tall. 

I understand that in colder climates it can be grown as an annual in the garden or containers. Planted in the spring it will grow to 5 ft tall if grown as an annual. 

In zones 10 and 11 it can be planted in the ground as an evergreen shrub which flowers in the late spring and summer. The flowers are small and hang in clusters from delicately drooping stems much like wisteria with flowers at the top, buds at the bottom. Many of these clusters will form on one stem.
Then in the fall and winter the flowers become waxy peach berries which remain all winter and into the next spring.
Taken in April, the rose and duranta are perfection together.
Unfortunately I don't have a picture of the plant when it has both berries and blossoms so you'll have to trust me when I say the colors look lovely together.

The flowers have a sweet fragrance that attracts not only me but the hummingbirds and butterflies love them too. Every year I have hummingbirds that nest in a large magnolia tree near the duranta. I would nest there too if I were a hummingbird. 
The twins, hummingbird babies in the magnolia May 2012.
The shrub prefers moist soil and sun but it is adaptable and can tolerate partial shade and drier conditions as well. I have 2 of them, one is in the shade of the magnolia so it gets dappled sun and water from the sprinklers so it is moist. The other one is in full sun in a drier location. Clearly the one in the moist shady area is more lush with larger leaves. It's the one shown above and grows long branches, adding several feet of height over the summer. The one in the sunny drier location grows to 8 ft tall and stops growing so it is easier to manage.

One of the things I love about the shrub is that birds tend to nest in it. Yesterday I counted 3 nests tucked away in its branches.
This is a plant which is delightful up close. Plant it where you can appreciate the details of the small flowers and close enough to take a sniff. The fragrance is delicious. 

Do be careful as the berries are poisonous and it has long thorns.
Mean thorns!
One year I was pruning it and was bending the branches to break them into pieces. In the process a thorn went straight into my nail and broke off. It went half way through my middle finger. OUCH. The thorns are easily an inch long. You have been warned.

But back to how pretty it is...

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