Ben Franklin wrote “In this world nothing is said to be certain except death & taxes”. In regards to plant life, although the proverb applies only to the former, it appears to do so in South Florida with extreme prejudice.
In the 1970’s “Jamaica Tall” coconuts lined many of our streets and schefflera trees could be found in just about everyone’s yard. By the 1980’s most of the Jamaica Talls were gone having succumbed to lethal yellowing disease and the schefflera’s were being removed by homeowners who no longer wanted to deal with their constant leaf drop and aggressive root system.
Groundcovers such as artillery fern, asparagus sprengeri and wedelia that lined many Association’s entranceways were no longer in vogue and were replaced by liriope. Australian Pine, Brazilian Pepper and Melaleuca trees that were introduced more than 100 years earlier were outlawed because they were outcompeting Florida’s native habitats. Widely planted trees such as Bischofia, Carrotwood, Earleaf Acacia, Indian Rosewood and Pongam also proved to be problematic and were voluntarily phased out by the nurseries.
In their search to find plants that could be sheared to fit into our small yards, Landscape Architects welcomed the use of plants such as Dwarf Carissa, Ilex Shillingri, Orange Jasmine and Surinam Cherry. Due to their invasiveness or poor performance, these have also declined in popularity. Other species such as sagos, ficus and gold mound durantas have developed serious pest problems and are no longer being promoted by the industry. The Malayan and Maypan Coconuts, which were introduced into our landscape to replace the Jamaica Talls, are being chainsawed by homeowners who prefer their removal rather than the annual expense of removing their coconuts.
During the past few years “green island” ficus has been the shrub of choice used by our landscapers. Most recently, Japanese Blueberry trees have become the trend. Unfortunately, we do not have the knowledge of how either will perform long term in our environment. Hopefully they will do better than many of the previous species introduced into our area.