Dodonaea viscosa: Florida hopbush

Family: Sapindaceae
Common name: Florida hopbush

I found this unique bush near Nandi hills in Karnataka, India and was surprised to learn that it’s called the Florida hopbush. Though native to the Americas, it’s now found all over the world. The plant can grow to a height of 1-3 meters, with thin leathery glossy leaves. The flowers are small greenish-yellow with a red base, growing in thick clusters.

Most plants have only either male or female flowers, though some plants have flowers of both sexes. So the plants cannot self-fertilize, but rely on wind or insect pollination. The most interesting feature of the Florida hopbush is the fruit which has a bulge in the center and 3 wings to the sides, containing 1-2 seeds. The fruits could be light green and pink, light purple or even red depending on the species.

The bitter fruits are sometimes added as substitutes for hops in beer, and hence the name. The wood of this plant is very strong and is used in making weapons and axe handles. The leaves contain some toxicity, but their medicinal properties make them good at healing wounds, toothaches, sore throats, skin rashes and insect stings. The plants are very hardy and can withstand drought, strong winds and very bad soil conditions.

Propagation is from seeds or stem cuttings.

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