Take a walk around Sangre Grande Hospital and you will be pleased to see bunches of neatly trimmed Duranta erecta shrubs. The trees are made up of yellow berries and purple flowers.
They are aesthetically pleasing to the eyes of visitors to the hospital. Orchid-like flowers may be light blue to light purple in color. Some plants develop loads of yellow, ball-shaped drupes. Common names are golden dewdrop, pigeon berry, and skyflower.
Description of Duranta erecta
The plant is a sprawling, sometimes vine-like tender evergreen shrub or small tree. It can get up to 18 ft (5.5 m) tall and just as wide. It usually forms a multi-stemmed clump with branches that droop and trail.
The ovate leaves are 1-3 in (2.5-7.6 cm) long and arranged on the stem in pairs opposite each other, or in whorls of three. Some bushes are quite spiny, and some have no spines at all. The showy flowers bloom almost all year long in terminal or lateral clusters (racemes, actually) up to 6 in (15.2 cm) long. Source: www.floridata.com
The pretty dangerous Duranta erecta plant
If you think the Duranta erecta looks delicious like edible berries or grapes, guess again. The leaves and berries of this plant are toxic and are confirmed to have killed children, dogs and cats. Birds may also be at risk. This is based on evidence of the plant being the likely cause of death of a number of captive parrots and finches. However, songbirds eat the fruit without ill effects.
Symptoms of poisoning include upset stomach, drowsiness, nausea, fever, vomiting and convulsions.
Branches of Duranta erecta have 2 cm long spines all the way along them. They can easily pierce or scratch skin. They are tough enough to even puncture through gardening gloves. Duranta erecta has also been reported to cause dermatitis just from being handled.
Duranta erecta invasive in parts of the world
Duranta erecta is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant in tropical and subtropical gardens throughout the world, and has become naturalized in many places. It is considered an invasive species in Australia, China, South Africa and on several Pacific Islands.
January 2017 www.sweettntmagazine.com
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