Click on terms for botanical definitions.
|Photo by Eleanor Dietrich|
The common name, vanillaleaf, refers to the vanilla-like scent that the wilting leaves emit when crushed. The species epithet, odoratissimus, is from the Latin for “most fragrant” and also alludes to the leaves’ scent.
Vanillaleaf occurs naturally in mesic to hydric pine flatwoods, moist sandhills and bogs and blooms late summer into fall. It is found throughout Florida; however, the species has been divided into two varieties with distinct ranges: C. odoratissimus is found in the Panhandle and north and central peninsula. C. odoratissimus var. subtropicanus (sometimes known simply as C. subtropicanus) is endemic to the central and southern peninsula. Their ranges overlap in Citrus, Sumter, Orange and Osceola counties. The leaves of C. odoratissimus var. subtropicanus emit little to no vanilla-like scent. Its common name is false vanillaleaf. Both varieties attract butterflies and other pollinators.
|Vanillaleaf blooming in pine flatwoods. Photo by Eleanor Dietrich.|
Click here to see where vanillaleaf occurs naturally.
Hardiness: Zone 8a-10b, depending on variety
Soil: Moist to moderately dry soils
Exposure: Full sun to partial shade
Growth habit: 4’+ tall
Garden tips: Although vanillaleaf likes moist soils, it does not tolerate inundation. As well, it can tolerate drought once established, but requires sufficient moisture during hot summer months.
Vanillaleaf plants are occasionally available from nurseries that specialize in Florida native plants. Visit www.plantrealflorida.org to find a nursery in your area.