The Paradise Tree is a tropical, evergreen tree that grows in lowland forests in the American tropics. It ranges from South Florida to the Caribbean and Central and South America. It is a small to medium-sized tree with a straight, cylindrical trunk and gray bark. It has beautiful, glossy, rich green leaves. Leaves are pinnately compound with oblong leaflets. The leaflets have whitish lower surfaces. Young leaves are burgundy. In the spring it bears large, open clusters of small, light yellow flowers. The flowers give way to oval fruits that change from orange to reed and then to black when they are mature. The fruits are edible and are sold in local markets. An oil in the seeds can be used as a biodiesel and in detergents. The bark has a long history of being used medicinally to treat a variety of ailments. It is related to the bitter wood which is used to treat malarial fevers. The paradise tree is one of the common understory trees of the hardwood hammocks of South Florida. It is grown as an ornamental and street tree. Hardy in zones 10-12.
Growing Instructions for the Paradise Tree
The seeds need to be planted when received or stored in a refrigerator until they are planted. The seeds have a hard seed coat that has to be treated, or scarified, in order for water to enter the seeds so that they can sprout. 1. Scarify the seeds by nicking or sanding the seed coat. The seeds can be sanded with sandpaper, a nail file or an emery board. 2. The seeds like moist, well-drained soil. Use a sterile seed starter mix, if available. It prevents soil pathogens from damaging the seeds and the seedlings. If not available, then make a mixture of half potting soil and half sand, perlite or vermiculite. 3. Put the soil in a pot. 4. Sow the seeds on the soil. 5. Cover the seeds with a thin layer of soil. 6. Water the seeds. Keep the soil moist but not wet. 7. Place the pots in an area with warm temperatures in full sun or part shade. 8. When the seedlings are a few inches tall, they can be transplanted.