Native to India, Sri Lanka, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia, and new Guinea, shoebutton ardisia is an evergreen shrub or small tree growing up to 17’ tall. It was introduced into Florida as an ornamental by 1900 and has naturalized become invasive in southern Florida, growing on coastal berms, hammocks, mesic flatwoods, strand swamps, marshes, old fields, cypress and mangrove areas, and disturbed wetlands where it forms understory thickets that crowd out native species. The plants flower and produce seeds all through the year and the latter are eaten and dispersed by both birds and mammals. Tolerance to shade and wet soil together with its high reproductive rate are thought to be responsible for the spread and invasiveness of shoebutton ardisia. USDA Hardiness zones 10-11

The following natives are recommended as alternatives:

Marlberry (Ardisia escallonioides)
Marlberry is a mounded shrub or small tree growing ten to fifteen feet tall and having terminal panicles of small white flowers, glossy, deep green leaves, five to six inches long, and dark purple berries. It is native to pinelands, marl rides, and hummocks in central and southern Florida. USDA Hardiness zones 9-11

Seven-Year Apple (Casaesia clusiifolia)
Native to coastal areas of Florida this evergreen shrub or small tree grows up to 20’ tall and combines high salt tolerance with beautiful glossy, leathery foliage and fragrant white flowers tipped with pink in spring and early summer. USDA Hardiness zones 10-11.

Fedderbush lyonia (Lyonia lucida)
Fedderbush lyonia is an arching, loose, evergreen shrub growing up to 15’ tall. It is native to shrubby bogs, wet savannas, conifer swamps, and scrubs from Virginia south to Florida and west to Texas and has leathery leaves and small clusters of fragrant pink to white bell-shaped flowers in spring. USDA Hardiness zones 7-9

Coastal Plain Staggerbush (Lyonia fruticosa)
This evergreen shrub grows up to 10’ tall and is native to pine woodlands and shrub bogs from southern South Carolina to Florida. It has white earn-shaped flowers and medium sized elliptical leaves. USDA Hardiness zones 8-10

Sweetbay (Magnolia virginiana)
With lemon scented creamy-white flowers in late spring, and lush green leather leaves that turn yellow in fall, this medium sized tree grow up to 40’ tall. It is native to low woods, swamps, and streambanks from Massachusetts to Florida, west to Texas. USDA Hardiness zones 6-9

Southern Wax Myrtle (Morella cerifera aka Myrica cerifera)
Growing up to 15’ tall, southern wax myrtle is an evergreen large shrub or small tree and is native to wetlands, riparian sites, sand dunes, fields, hillsides, and pine barrens from New Jersey south to Florida, west to the lower Mississippi Valley and Texas. It has aromatic olive green leaves and fragrant but non-showy flowers. USDA Hardiness zones 7-10

Devilwood (Osmanthus americanus)
Devilwood is an evergreen small tree or large shrub native to dry woods, mesic hardwood hammocks, and along streams on the coastal plain from southern Virginia, south to Florida and west to Louisiana. It grows up to 50’ tall and has fragrant small white flowers in early spring. USDA Hardiness zones 5-9

Redbay (Persea borbonia)
Redbay is an evergreen small tree or large shrub with large scented leaves three to six inches long. It grows up to 50’ tall and is native to sandy low woods, swamps, pond margins, and pine savannah from North Carolina and Arkansas, south to Florida and Texas, with a spotty distribution in the Mississippi Valley. USDA Hardiness zones 7-10

Silk Bay (Persea humilis)
Growing up to 30’ tall, silk bay is an evergreen tree with scented foliage clustered towards the tips to give a tropical look. It is native to sandy low woods and margins of swamps and ponds in peninsular Florida. USDA Hardiness zones 8-10

Swamp Bay (Persea palustris)
With narrow scented evergreen foliage, swamp bay grows up to 50’ tall and is native to wet area such as swamps, marshes and edges of canals in the coastal regions from Delaware, south to Florida, and west to Texas. USDA Hardiness zones 8-10

Wild Coffee (Psychotria nervosa)
This evergreen shrub grows up to 15’ tall and is native to marl ridges and hummocks throughout peninsular Florida. It has brilliant red berries and six inch long quilted leaves that are dark green and glossy. USDA Hardiness zones 8-10

By Karen