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Tourist Tree – Gumbo-limbo tree (Bursera simaruba)

This month we celebrate a big tree located in Bradenton, Florida; a 90-year-old Gumbo-limbo (Bursera simaruba) tree.

You may know this tree by its nickname “tourist tree”.  The bright red peeling bark looks like sunburned skin that so many tourists experience when traveling south in the winter.

The lightweight wood from this tree was used to make carousel horses before the advent of molded plastic. It’s still used for decking and valued as a shade or specimen tree.

This beauty grows naturally in coastal hammocks of southern Florida, the West Indies, Central America and northern South America.

The fast-growing gumbo-limbo tree grows 20 to 40 feet or more tall and wide. Its huge trunk and large irregular branching forms the rounded crown.

This Florida specimen is suffering from a wood rotting disease (Ganoderma). Thanks to the community it has been treated, pruned and cabled to help extend its life.

A bit more information: Gumbo-limbo grows best in full sun to partial shade. It tolerates a wide range of soil and is drought tolerant once established. It also tolerates salt spray.

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