When George Washington visited the Bahamas in the 1760s, he called it "the Isle of Perpetual June." The tropical maritime climate of this nation just off the southeast coast of Florida finds many exotic and native plants that display attractive flowers. Gardeners in the Bahamas will often utilize these plants since they are well-suited to the hot rainy season (late May through October), fast-draining sandy soils and the long dry season.
Although not native to the Bahamas, yellow elder (Tecoma stans) hails as the floral emblem of the nation. Sometimes called yellow bells or "esperanza" in the Spanish-speaking lands of Central America, where it's native, this fast-growing shrub grows 15 to 28 feet tall and 10 to 15 feet wide. It loses it glossy green leaves in long droughts, but typically from late winter to midsummer clusters of brilliant yellow trumpet-shaped flowers appear.
Also native to the seaside cliffs in Central America is the nosegay frangipani (Plumeria rubra). In the Bahamas this small tree tolerates the sandy soils perfectly and survives the winter dry season without harm. Even though this tree's fragrant flowers are more often associated with leis and hair decals in Polynesia, frangipani plays an integral part in Bahamian gardens. Depending on variety planted, this plants matures 10 to 22 feet tall and 15 feet wide. Flower color ranges from white, yellow, pink and dark red as well as multi-colored blends.
Native to the Bahamas as well as nearby southernmost Florida is the vine known locally as wild unction (Urechites lutea), or wild allamada. According to Ardastra Gardens, Zoo and Conservation Center, this vine is much more common in the dry parts of the southern islands. Tolerant of hot sunshine, sand and seaside salt sprays, wild unction tends to sprawl its clambering vines over anything for support, reaching stem lengths up to 10 feet long. Year-round displays of small, trumpet-shaped light lemon-yellow flowers are surrounded by glossy yellow-green leaves.
Sometimes called "fish poison tree," the dog wood (Piscidia piscipula) is a Bahama native that grows 25 to 40 feet tall and 20 to 30 feet wide. This tree is native across much of the West Indies, too. In spring, the branches are filled with clusters of tiny pea-blossoms that are white to pink or lavender in tone. Afterwards light brown seed pods decorate the tree like Christmas ornaments with papery wings.
Bahamas buttercup (Turnera ulmifolia) is a small native shrub with glossy emerald green leaves. It grows 3 to 5 feet tall and equally wide. The five-petaled yellow flowers occur on stem tips in the warm months and then produce seeds that germinate nearby. Bahamas buttercup is evergreen and is well-suited to the sandy soils along the coast and in sunny meadows.