Scientific Name: Luma apiculata
Common Names: Chilean Myrtle, Orange-Bark Myrtle, Soap-Bark Tree,
Plant Type: Shrub or tree
Environment: Tolerates many types of soil from sandy to heavy clay as long as it is well-drained (don't let dry out completely). Prefers a sunny spot, but grows in semi-shade. Tolerates maritime exposure.
Bloom: July to October, scented flowers
Uses: CWorks well planted singly or as a group of trees planted together (plant in a location where the bark can be admired). Grows to 60 feet tall in the wild. Succeeds as a hedge, small tree, or bonsai as well as it is very tolerant of clipping.
Fruit flavor and texture varies considerably from plant to plant, ranging from juicy and sweet to dry and tasteless
L. apiculata was cultivated in California by 1897 and being sold in nurseries by 1909
Fragrance Garden in Bed 11F,
Chilean Garden in Beds 57D and 55B and
Library Terrace in Bed 5A..
One of the botanical treasures from Chile and western Argentina is the myrtle tree, Luma apiculata. Luma is an old Marpuche Indian word indicating the orange color of the bark and eventually was used as the botanical name. There is a national park in Argentina on Lake Nahuel Huapi dedicated to the preservation of an ancient grove of Luma apiculata. Some of the visitors embrace these trees as old friends! With great age, the trees develop their multi-trunks into fantastic shapes, and their luminous, cinnamon bark glows as it flakes into patches of orange and white.
Chilean Myrtle with its aromatic leaves and edible berries was much used in native medicine. Its inner bark foams like soap. The small leaves are pointed (apiculata) and shiny, and deliver a sweet spicy aroma when crushed. In our northern hemisphere, small waxy pearl-like blossoms appear in summer. In its native forests, Luma grows to 60 feet, but here it takes the form of a shrub or small tree. Equally at home in sun or shade, its form of growth is dependent on its environment. Luma apiculata is a fine tree for small gardens, and does splendidly in the Bay Area's mediterranean climate.
IN BLOOM CONTRIBUTORS:
Photos by Joanne Taylor, Text by Kathy McNeil, Profile by David Kruse-Pickler