Berberidaceae (Barberry) Family
Nandina is an invasive species along the Gulf Coast and is actively disrupting native plant communities.
The plant is an upright small shrub with a flat-topped crown of foliage that, if not tended, will become leggy at the base and may reach a height of 10 feet or more. Propagation is usually by root suckers. Its preferred habitat is thick woods, shaded yards and the edge of swamps. Distribution is throughout the Escambia region.
The leaves are evergreen, alternate on the stem, bi- or tri-pinnately compound and may spread to as much as 24 inches long and equally as wide. Each leaflet is sub-sessile; widest at the middle and lance-like in shape; no teeth and no lobes; leathery but smooth to the touch; bluish-green in summer color and reddish-green in winter. The leaf tip may taper to a long or short point with the sides being less than equal or pinched, setting it off abruptly from the lower portion of the leaf body. The base is wedge-shaped.
Flowers are bisexual in nature and symmetrical in form. New buds are pinkish in color, turning white when fully matured. Three to six petals are borne in an erect cluster at the end of the flowering stem. The anthers are yellow. Each flower is about 1/4 inch across. The panicle of flowers may be 8 to 15 inches long. The more healthy and vigorous flowers are achieved when the plant is kept in partial shade.
Fruit is a two-seeded, bright red or orange berry that ripens in September and October, persisting into and through winter. The abundant red berries are eaten by birds and other animals. The large panicles of berries are heavy and the branches usually bend to a drooping cluster. Because the berries are more prominently displayed on the outer margins of the plant it is often preferred over local hollies as a Christmas decoration.
Several cultivars have been created and carry common names like Gulf Stream, Firepower, Compact Nandina, and Harbor Dwarf. Firepower is the most popular, although it does not produce flowers or berries, but is favored primarily because of its multi-colored leaves.
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