Branching Out: Celebrating Florida’s Arbor Day, January 19th, 2024

Florida Arbor Day is a special occasion celebrated annually on the third Friday of January. It’s a day that reminds us of trees’ significant role in our environment and lives. This tradition began in Nebraska in 1872 and flourished across the United States, inspiring communities to plant and care for trees. Trees are not just aesthetic enhancements; they are vital to our ecosystem, providing oxygen, improving air quality, conserving water, preserving soil, and supporting wildlife.

This year, as we commemorate Florida Arbor Day on January 19th, 2024, we aim to delve deeper into the importance of trees, particularly in Northeast Florida. We focus on educating and inspiring our community about the diverse types of trees suited to our unique regional climate and how they contribute to our environment and well-being. In this edition, we explore the best trees for attracting wildlife, the top palms for Northeast Florida, and three fast-growing trees perfect for adding greenery swiftly to your landscapes.


Hands Down, the Best Trees to Attract Wildlife 

 Matthew Barlow, Garden Center Manager

A diverse range of wildlife is essential for a healthy ecosystem, and certain trees are particularly effective at attracting various animal species. Here in Jacksonville, Florida, we have many trees that serve as habitats and food sources for wildlife.

Bottlebrush with Hummingbird

Bottlebrush Tree

(Callistemon citrinus)

The Bottlebrush tree is a magnificent evergreen that grows up to 15 feet tall and wide. It’s a favorite among birds and beneficial pollinators due to its intermittent blooming throughout the year. Its vibrant red flowers are not just beautiful to look at but also a vital nectar source for hummingbirds and bees. I’ve observed hummingbirds lingering around these trees even when not in bloom, a testament to their memory of the sweet nectar.

Bottlebrush trees are ideal for our Northeast Florida climate. They are easy to grow and maintain. Apart from attracting hummingbirds, these trees are also a haven for butterflies, bees, squirrels, and various songbirds. The Bottlebrush is an excellent choice if you’re looking for a versatile tree that can be shaped according to your space – whether as a majestic shade tree or a neatly trimmed hedge.

Vitex or Chaste Tree 

(Vitex agnus-castus)

The Vitex is a showstopper with its unique lilac-colored flowers. It’s a deciduous tree that blooms sporadically throughout the year. Unlike the more common Crape Myrtles, Vitex trees are less widely grown, making them a unique addition to any garden. It’s beneficial to trim the tree after each flush of flowers to encourage more blossoms.

This tree is a magnet for hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees, including those that produce honey. Like the Bottlebrush, the Vitex can reach up to 15 feet in height and width but can be maintained at a smaller size with regular pruning. Its unique appearance and ability to attract a range of pollinators make it a valuable addition to any garden.


Top Palms for Northeast Florida

In Northeast Florida, palms are more than just trees; they symbolize the region’s tropical beauty. Our climate allows a variety of palms to flourish, each bringing unique charm and benefits to our gardens.




(Pygmy Date Palm)

Ideal for smaller spaces, the Roebelenii Palm is known for its compact size and feathery fronds. It’s a charming addition to any garden or patio area, bringing a touch of the tropics to even the smallest spaces. This palm is particularly favored for its ornamental value and ease of care.

Phoenix Sylvestris

Phoenix Sylvestris

(Silver Date Palm)

This palm is renowned for its elegant, silvery-blue leaves, adding a touch of sophistication to any landscape. It’s a resilient tree, drought-resistant, and thrives under the Florida sun. The Silver Date Palm is a versatile choice for landscapers and homeowners alike due to its striking appearance and low maintenance requirements.

Queen Palms

Queen Palms

Queen Palms are a staple in creating a tropical oasis. Their long, graceful fronds and smooth trunks make them a popular choice. As fast growers, these palms can add significant height and greenery to your garden in a relatively short period. They are perfect for those who want to quickly establish a tropical ambiance in their outdoor space.

Sabal Palm

Sabal Palm

The Sabal Palm, the state tree of Florida, is a symbol of resilience and adaptability. It can withstand various weather conditions, making it a reliable choice for any landscape. Its hardiness and low maintenance make it a favorite among residential and commercial landscapers.

For more detailed information on these palms and others suited for our region and other considerations for selecting the perfect palm, visit our comprehensive page at Earth Works Garden Center. Here, you’ll discover a wealth of knowledge tailored to the unique climate and aesthetic needs of Northeast Florida.

Three Fast-Growing Trees for Northeast Florida

In addition to the palms and wildlife-attracting trees, another crucial aspect of landscaping in Northeast Florida is the selection of fast-growing trees. These trees are ideal for homeowners and gardeners looking to quickly add shade, privacy, or an element of mature landscaping to their properties. Here are three of the best fast-growing trees for our region:

Red Maple

Florida Red Maple 

(Acer rubrum)

The Florida Red Maple is an impressive tree, reaching 40 to 60 feet and a spread of about 40 feet. Known for its spectacular red color in spring and varied hues in the fall, it’s a visual delight throughout the year. This tree is remarkably resilient, disease- and pest-resistant, and can withstand the varied conditions of Northeast Florida. When planting, ensure it’s at least 20 to 30 feet away from structures due to its robust root system. It thrives in full sun and can tolerate normal or very wet soil conditions, making it an excellent choice for areas with excess moisture.

Drake Elm 

(Ulmus parvifolia)

The Drake Elm is a medium-sized shade tree that excels in our local climate. It can grow 30 to 35 feet tall and wide, making it a perfect choice for providing ample shade. Planting this tree about 10 to 15 feet away from any structures is advisable. In winter, its leaves turn yellow, adding a splash of color early in the season. The bark of the Drake Elm is beautiful, developing flaky patterns over time. This tree is best suited to full sun and well-drained soil, making it a versatile option for many landscapes.

drake elm
japanese blueberry 3

Japanese Blueberry

(Elaeocarpus decipiens)

Unlike the first two, the Japanese Blueberry is an evergreen, maintaining its foliage year-round. It can grow up to 30 feet tall and wide, so it should be planted at least 10 to 15 feet away from structures. This tree is known for its reliability and fast growth, providing shade every month of the year. The leaves turn bright orange or red before they are shed, and the berries produced in the fall attract birds, adding another dimension of wildlife interaction to your garden.


Each of these trees offers unique benefits, from the striking seasonal colors of the Florida Red Maple and Drake Elm to the year-round greenery and wildlife attraction of the Japanese Blueberry. When selecting trees for your landscape, consider the space available, the soil conditions, and the overall aesthetic you wish to achieve. These fast-growing trees are not only practical choices for quick landscaping improvements but also contribute to the biodiversity and beauty of Northeast Florida.

As we celebrate Florida Arbor Day this year, let’s embrace the rich diversity of trees. From the wildlife-friendly Bottlebrush and Vitex trees to the elegant and tropical palms and the rapidly growing Florida Red Maple, Drake Elm, and Japanese Blueberry, there’s a tree for every purpose and every landscape. Planting a tree is more than just a landscaping decision; it’s a commitment to the future of our environment and community. Let’s unite to plant, nurture, and celebrate these magnificent natural resources, creating a greener, more beautiful Northeast Florida for future generations.

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