A Great Group Of Plants: Pigeon Berries, a.k.a. Duranta erecta

In 1995, I was wandering around on my bicycle in Perth, Western Australia, when I spied a 15- to 20-foot-tall shrub/tree magnificently laden with beautiful lilac-blue flowers. After checking with the locals, I was told it was a sky flower, otherwise known as duranta. It was a weed in many parts of Australia, but did not appear to be so in Perth. I stayed in Perth throughout the summer but left before the golden berries had ripened. I can’t imagine what a sight that must have been. However, I brought one back to Athens with me. It only grows to about 6 feet tall, not only in the summer with its fine foliage and handsome flowers, but then later in the fall when the fruit ripens. It is one of the finest plants in the gardens at UGA. The flowers are fragrant and the butterflies adore them. The flowers and fruit are responsible for the common names of Sky Flower, Golden Dewdrop and Pigeon Berry. The genus duranta is a group of approximately 20 species of shrubs and small trees native from southern Florida to Mexico and South America. The genus honors the 15th century Italian botanist and papal physician, Castore Durantes. The plant I brought back is thornless and completely hardy to zone 7b, at least.

Some Cultivars

I have since trialed some handsome variegated forms (‘Variegata,’ ‘Gold Edge’) which seldom flower but are excellent for the handsome foliage. They should be placed in some afternoon shade once they leave the greenhouse. A white-flowered form (‘Alba’) is, in truth, a poor plant compared to the lilac-flowered forms. Recently, other flowering cultivars have appeared. ‘Sapphire Showers’ has blue and white flowers and is beautiful but can be quite gangly. ‘Geisha Girl’ appears to be fairly similar. All cultivars should be considered annuals in most of the country. As interesting as all these are, they have a couple of drawbacks. Most are big and rather unwieldy and most have very sharp thorns. 

The Best Of All

About six years ago, Dennis Schrader, an extraordinary plantsman and owner of Landscape Environmentals on Long Island, N.Y., showed me a most wonderful plant. It was only about 2 feet tall and completely golden. He called it ‘Cuban Gold.’ I was stunned with its beauty and habit. Of course, that was Long Island and I wanted to put it to the true test. I took some cuttings back to Georgia and discovered that even in our summer heat, it stayed dwarf and remained golden throughout the summer. Since that time, ‘Cuban Gold’ has been on our “best plants” list and performed so well, we included it as part of our Athens Select group of plants for heat and humidity. It is available through most reputable brokers. 

In The Greenhouse

Plant cuttings in 4-inch to 1-gallon containers in full winter sun. Apply 100 ppm N constant liquid feed. ‘Cuban Gold’ needs no growth regulators, but others benefit from a 1,500 ppm application of B-Nine or other PGRs. From a rooted plug, expect about 7 to 12 weeks at 65ºF, depending on container size. I have seldom seen an insect or pathogen in all the years I have been growing it, but whiteflies have been reported to be a problem.

In the Landscape

‘Cuban Gold’ is a perfect plant for edging and is wonderful in mixed containers with cascading blue torenia. If it gets a little too tall, just cut it back. The variegated forms are useful for the front of the garden and in containers, as well. The other forms take considerable space but are excellent garden plants if room is available. 

Unfortunately, plants don’t flower, but the good looking foliage makes up for it. There are a few thorns, but they are mostly at the base of the plant, so seldom will be a problem. There are many reasons to include these plants in your garden. However, if your clients struggle with deer, this may not be the plant for them.

Leave a Reply

2 comments on “A Great Group Of Plants: Pigeon Berries, a.k.a. Duranta erecta

  1. I am a landscape designer in Jacksonville, Florida and have grown to adore the duranta cuban gold and have used it in many of my clients landscapes. We have just had 3 nights of very unusually cold weather and covered the plants with frost cloth. I am wondering if some have been nicked by the cold still does this plant come back? Do I need to fertilize with anything special to help it along?
    Many thanks!

  2. I am a landscape designer in Jacksonville, Florida and have grown to adore the duranta cuban gold and have used it in many of my clients landscapes. We have just had 3 nights of very unusually cold weather and covered the plants with frost cloth. I am wondering if some have been nicked by the cold still does this plant come back? Do I need to fertilize with anything special to help it along?
    Many thanks!

More From Varieties...
Francis Kwong, PanAmerican Seed

August 15, 2017

Ornamental Seed Scientist Francis Kwong Dies at Age 65

Kwong was most recently the Director of Seed Technology for PanAmerican Seed, and his research was instrumental in the development of calibrachoa, angelonia, and other plants.

Read More
Candy Tops Snapdragons Series (Sakata Ornamentals)

August 3, 2017

Five Characteristics Breeders Want in Top-Performing Spring Annuals

New spring annuals have to provide something for everyone — longevity, durability, performance, and more — if they want to meet breeders’ high standards for market-worthy plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Headliner Pink Sky" (Selecta)

August 3, 2017

Why Eccentricity is the New Black in Spring Annuals

Consumers judge plants by appearance, color impact, and ease of maintenance, which is why retailers want new spring annuals that are novel standouts.    

Read More
Latest Stories
Francis Kwong, PanAmerican Seed

August 15, 2017

Ornamental Seed Scientist Francis Kwong Dies at Age 65

Kwong was most recently the Director of Seed Technology for PanAmerican Seed, and his research was instrumental in the development of calibrachoa, angelonia, and other plants.

Read More
Candy Tops Snapdragons Series (Sakata Ornamentals)

August 3, 2017

Five Characteristics Breeders Want in Top-Performing Sp…

New spring annuals have to provide something for everyone — longevity, durability, performance, and more — if they want to meet breeders’ high standards for market-worthy plants.

Read More
Petunia 'Headliner Pink Sky" (Selecta)

August 3, 2017

Why Eccentricity is the New Black in Spring Annuals

Consumers judge plants by appearance, color impact, and ease of maintenance, which is why retailers want new spring annuals that are novel standouts.    

Read More

August 1, 2017

39 New Vegetables and Herbs for 2018

New vegetable and herb introductions for 2017 offer unique shaped fruits, distinctive foliage, intense flavors, improved disease resistance, high yields, and more. Here are 39 new vegetable and herb varieties to consider for your product mix in 2018.

Read More
2018 Griffin Catalog

July 31, 2017

Griffin Releases Print and Digital Versions of Its 2018…

The 250-page print catalog features more than 350 new varieties from leading breeders, while the enhanced digital version has extra features on crop culture, grower tools, and more.

Read More
Emerald-Coast-Growers-Guide-Feature-Image

July 27, 2017

Emerald Coast Growers Offers Updated Guide on its Newes…

This year’s guide features new varieties while maintaining Emerald Coast’s ornamental grass program and expanding its perennial plants line.

Read More
Terra Nova Shipping Box

July 20, 2017

Terra Nova Nurseries, Dümmen Orange to Partner on Unroo…

Terra Nova Nurseries has contracted with Dümmen Orange to produce unrooted cuttings (URCs) from Terra Nova private stock located at Dümmen Orange’s Central America facilities. The URCs will fulfill orders in North America and Europe.

Read More

July 20, 2017

New Perennials, Trial Gardens, and Merchandising Were H…

Darwin Perennials Day has steadily become one of the must-attend perennial events of the summer. This year, even the weather cooperated.

Read More
2018 Ball Seed Catalog

July 17, 2017

Ball Seed’s 2018 New Varieties Catalog Now Available

The expanded guide includes breakthrough breeding from Ball in annuals, perennials, vegetables, potted plants, and more.

Read More
Pleasant View Open House

July 16, 2017

Pleasant View Gardens, D.S. Cole Growers Hosting Open H…

The event gives horticulture industry professionals the chance to check out nearly 80 new introductions from Proven Winners, as well as Pleasant View’s new Savor Edibles & Fragrants line.

Read More
All American Selections

July 12, 2017

All-America Selections Celebrates Milestone Anniversary…

Coinciding with its 85th anniversary celebration, AAS is hosting an open house at its new offices, and has also released its annual report.

Read More

July 8, 2017

Plant Patent Law: Protecting the Variety Pipeline

Breeders call for better cooperation in protecting intellectual property while considering how stricter laws and expensive patents could impact the future of innovation.

Read More
Calibrachoa ‘Superbells Holy Moly!’ (Proven Winners)

July 8, 2017

Are Utility Patents Tying Up Innovation With Litigation…

The opportunities for innovation in plant breeding could be greatly advanced by creating an industry-led patent licensing platform.

Read More

July 8, 2017

Fleuroselect and CIOPORA Offer Organizational Leadershi…

Learn why breeders feel these organizations should be emulated in an industry-led initiative to protect plant breeding efforts.

Read More
Thalictrum Nimbus White (Terra Nova Nurseries)

June 30, 2017

Kelly Norris Dishes on New Plants, Going to Seed, and B…

From woody perennials to genetically modified petunias, Kelly Norris gives his take on what turned out to be a busy spring.

Read More
Jim Devereux, Green Fuse Botanicals

June 24, 2017

Green Fuse Botanicals New Vice President is Focused on …

Jim Devereux, who will oversee production, sales, and marketing for Green Fuse, says he hopes to bring genetics to the market that break from traditional production methods for finished growers.

Read More
Ushio Sakazaki feature

June 22, 2017

Japanese Breeder Ushio Sakazaki Wins Medal of Excellenc…

From Supertunias to Superbells, this innovative Japanese breeder has used wild genetics to create game-changing plants that help consumers reconnect with the beauty of nature.

Read More
CallaFornia Red

June 20, 2017

Dümmen Orange Enters Calla Market With Acquisition of G…

Golden State will continue to supply the market through September 2018, at which time Dümmen Orange will assume supply and delivery of much of Golden State’s product line.

Read More