Friday, July 5, 2019

Simpson’s Stopper or Twinberry

My nature sketchbook nestled in the Simpson Stopper, you can see a bit of the trunk on the left.

A favorite of people and wildlife
Simpson’s Stopper is one of my favorite native small trees or large shrubs.  I have two growing now, one a veteran of 20 years and the other a small 3-year old transplant.  I planted this for wildlife, but also because it’s pleasing to look at and needs little maintenance from me. 
Wildlife loves it because of the berries and cover.  A mockingbird and blue jay take turns staking it out when the orange-to-red berries ripen, and the bees and butterflies seem to appreciate the fragrant white flowers that come before.  Simpson’s Stopper even has lovely ornamental trunks (cinnamon and gray markings with decorative peeling) and bright green shiny leaves of varied shapes. 
A story of names
It’s called Simpson’s Stopper because it was named in honor of Charles Torrey Simpson, a contemporary of Dr. David Fairchild (whose plant  collection later became Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden).  Charles was a self-taught naturalist, a specialist in molluscs and botany, and an author and conservationist who made his home in southeast Florida in the early 1900’s.
The name “stopper” is said to have two possible origins.  The first is that it was used as a medicine to treat flu-like symptoms and to stop diarrhea.  The second is that the multiple trunks make it difficult to pass through a hedge or thicket – thus stopping anyone who tries.
It’s also called Twinberry because the flowers and subsequent fruits are borne on a “Y” shaped stalk – twins.  It’s sometimes called nakedwood – self-evident because of the smooth bark on the copper, gray, and tan trunks. 
Many stamens indeed!
The scientific name is Myricanthes fragrans.  According to The Names of Plants by D. Gledhill, Myriacanthus means “with very many thorns”,  Myriandra means myriad stamens, and Myrica and fragans mean fragrance.  I think we can agree that somewhere in there the many-stamened fragrant flowers fit these definitions.  It’s said that the thorns refer to the stamens (there are no thorns at all on this tree).  Because of the dynamic nature of botanical re-classification through the years, older texts refer to this species as Eugenia simpsonii, which is where the Simpson name emerges.
And more
Simpson’s Stopper is native to south Florida and found throughout within the Caribbean, Central America and northern South America. It is salt tolerant and will grow in coastal areas further north. Once established, little care is needed – mine seems to thrive on benign neglect. 

Because Simpson's stopper is a threatened plant species, collecting from the wild is a no-no. Florida has several native plant nurseries and organizations that will happily set you up with a seedling or more mature specimen. My original shrub was purchased through a local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society, a great source for plants as well as knowledge. 

Resources you may like to visit to know more:  

Florida IFAS extension plant information:

Green Deane on the edibility of Simpson’s Stopper (and more interesting tidbits):

The Naples Chapter of the Florida Native Plant society
Aquabee sketchbook, 6x9”
.7 mm mechanical pencil
Pitt artist pen, dark sepia size S
Daniel Smith watercolors
Round brushes, size 4 and 8

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