Trees in Tropical Climates

Tropical climates vary geographically in terms of temperature and annual precipitation but are typically warm and humid year-round, such as southernmost Florida or Hawaii. Trees in tropical regions are very sensitive to cold or freezing temperatures. Some tropical trees, like avocado, withstand subtropical climates that experience occasional freezing temperatures but must be well protected.

Plumeria

Plumeria (Plumeria rubra), also known as frangipani, melia or temple tree, is a small, deciduous tree, rapidly reaching 25 feet high with equal spread. Its simple, elliptic leaves grow 20 inches long and cluster at branch tips. Plumeria flowers, fragrant and waxy, are produced in clusters and may be white, pink, red or yellow and up to 3 inches wide. In Hawaii, plumeria flowers are often used for making leis. Plumeria trees prefer full sun and a wide range of well-drained soils. They do poorly in waterlogged conditions. Plumeria are cold hardy in USDA Hardiness Zone 10 to 11.

Banana

Bananas (Musa spp.) are tree-like perennial evergreens reaching 30 feet tall, depending on the species. Some dwarf species reach only 7 feet. Banana leaves grow very large, up to 9 feet long and 2 feet wide. The University of Florida extension recommends 'Dwarf Cavendish' as a good producer of medium-sized fruit and more suited to cooler climates than other cultivars. Bananas prefer full sun or partial shade in nutrient-rich, moist, well-draining soil. Bananas are cold hardy to zone USDA Hardiness Zone 9, but require protection from freeze damage in winter.

Coconut Palm

Coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) are large, single-trunked palm trees reaching up to 100 feet tall but commonly seen around 40 feet. In most cultivars, its trunk is arches and supports a gracefully curving canopy of 15 foot long palm fronds consisting of 60 to 80 leaflets. Coconut palms produce fleshy, edible, coconut fruit and grow in the warmest areas of USDA Hardiness Zones 10 to 11. Commonly found along sandy shores, coconut palms prefer full sun, various soils and are highly salt tolerant.

Tamarind

The tamarind (Tamarindus indica) is a vase-shaped, densely foliated, spreading tree that slowly reaches up to 100 feet tall and 40 feet wide under favorable growing conditions. It produces 4-inch leaves comprised of 20 to 40 1 inch, oblong leaflets and 3 to 6 inch long brown pods containing sweetly acidic, edible brown pulp. Tamarind trees, cold hardy in USDA Hardiness Zones 10b to 11, prefer full sun on a wide range of soils.

Keywords: tropical trees, tropical climate trees, tropical landscape

About this Author

Marie Roberts is a freelance writer based in north central Florida. She has a B.S. in horticultural sciences from the University of Florida. Roberts began writing in 2002 and is published in the "Proceedings of the Florida State Horticultural Society."