Tropical Plants in the Myrtle Family

The myrtle family, Myrtaceae, is perhaps more quickly recognized if called the eucalyptus family, since it evokes images of a warm location like Australia. Many members of this plant family are native to subtropical regions and the warmest areas of temperate zones. The more tropical species, those in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 10 and warmer, grow their finest where winter frosts never occur. Many species produce lots of nectar, making them prized honey plants.

Pendas

Native to the tropical rain forests of southeastern Asia and northern Australia are trees known as pendas. They are broadleaf evergreens with puffy flower clusters in shades of gold, red or white. Examples include golden penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus), mountain penda (Xanthostemon graniticus), red penda (Xanthostemon youngii) and the mangkono (Xanthostemon verdugonianus).

Guavas

Pretty white flowers followed by fleshy sweet fruits don the branches of guava trees, which hail from tropical America. Two species of note include the apple or common guava (Psidium guajava) and cherry or strawberry guava (Psidium cattleianum).

Tropical Grape Trees

Abundant across the Amazon basin, these trees develop small, edible fruits that look like grapes or miniature guavas. The fruit of camu-camu (Myrciaria floribunda) has 30 times the amount of vitamin C in citrus fruits according to Margaret Barwick, author of "Tropical and Subtropical Trees." Other species include jaboticaba or the Brazilian grape (Myrciaria cauliflora), guavaberry (Myrciaria floribunda) and the blue grape (Myrciaria vexator).

Spice Trees

Two slow-growing species from tropical America with fragrant leaves are the allspice (Pimenta dioica) and the bay rum tree (Pimenta racemosa). Oils from the leaves of both are used in flavoring, and the dried seeds of allspice yield the culinary spice also known as Jamaican pepper.

Gum Trees

Also simply called eucalypts, gum trees seem to be synonymous with anything Australian. While many are subtropical in origin, many cold-tender tropical species exist, including the rainbow gum (Eucalyptus deglupta) with its multicolored bark, native to Indonesia and the Philippines.

Bloodwoods

Recently a botanical split in taxonomy found some previous species of Eucalyptus reclassified into a new genus named Corymbia, known commonly as bloodwoods. There are 110 species of Corymbia according to Kirsten Albrecht Llamas, author of "Tropical Flowering Plants." Two examples of tropical bloodwoods are the swamp or spring bloodwood (Corymbia ptychocarpa) and the lemon-scented gum (Corymbia citriodora).

Paperbarks

Puffy, bottlebrush-like, creamy-white flowers occur on paperbark trees, which are native to peninsular Southeast Asia to Australia. Tropical species include weeping paperbark (Melaleuca leucadendra), blue paperbark (Melaleuca dealbata), silver-leaf paperbark (Melaleuca argentea), paperbark tea-tree (Melaleuca minutifolia) and the paperbark punk (Melaleuca quinquinervia).

Tropical Apples

So called because of the fleshy, creamy-pink to red fruits that follow the flowers, tropical apple fruits often smell like roses. Rose-apple (Syzygium jambos), Malay apple (Syzygium malaccense), Java apple (Syzygium samarangense) and Java plum (Syzygium cumini) are four species that appreciate frost-free tropical environments. All Syzigium species are native to the Old World.

Tropical Cherries

Difficult to distinguish physically from tropical apples (Syzygium spp.) are stoppers or tropical cherries (Eugenia spp.), which are native only to the tropical Americas. Small, acidy fruits are produced in abundance on the Brazilian cherry (Eugenia brasiliensis), Surinam cherry (Eugenia uniflora) and cherry of the Rio Grande (Eugenia aggregata).

Keywords: tropical myrtles, Myrtaceae, eucalyptus relatives, tropical myrtle family

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for "The Public Garden," "Docent Educator," nonprofit newsletters and for horticultural databases, becoming a full-time writer in 2008. He's gardened and worked professionally at public and private gardens in Colorado, Florida, Minnesota, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania. He has written articles for eHow and GardenGuides.