Golden dewdrop (Duranta erecta) is an evergreen shrub or small tree that makes an exciting backdrop or privacy barrier. The Latin name "erecta" means upright and the common name "golden dewdrop" references the showy yellow fruits that cascade from the plant in the summer. Its origin is debated, but golden dewdrop may be native to Florida or the West Indies and Central America.
Golden dewdrop sports bright green, oval leaves with serrated margins. Branches are irregular and drooping, particularly when adorned with fountains of flowers and the fruits that follow.
There are several cultivars of golden dewdrop. Most commonly seen is 'Gold Mound' with its golden-yellow leaves, or the highly ornamental 'Sapphire Shower' with purple flowers. There is also a variegated cultivar called 'Variegata' with white- or yellow-edged leaves for added interest.
The tree grows to a maximum height of eight to 15 feet with a spread of 10 to 15 feet. Golden dewdrop often has multiple small trunks. Plants are hardy in USDA zones 9B through 11, although temperatures in the low forties can cause leaves to turn a purple hue. Even if it experiences cold damage, golden dewdrop will bounce back in the spring.
In addition to bright foliage, golden dewdrop also provides tubular flowers that range in color from purple, to white, to blue. The flowers are clustered in a form (called raceme) that, from a distance, resembles a bunch of grapes. They appear in the spring and summer, followed by striking yellow drupes. Flowers and fruits can be seen simultaneously, making the plant particularly showy. The fruits are typically half an inch in diameter and hang from the plant like densely clustered strands of pearls.
Fruits can remain on the tree into the winter, providing a pop of color to a dull landscape. That is, if they're not removed by wildlife. The fruits may look tantalizing, but they're actually poisonous to humans. However, birds will happily devour the golden feast provided by the tree. The flowers will also attract butterflies.
Planting and Care
Golden dewdrop is tolerant of most soil types but cannot survive salt. The tree will grow in partial shade, but thrives in full sun. It is also drought tolerant, so only water your tree occasionally. Golden dewdrop works well as a screen or backdrop plant, but its height means it should not be planted in cramped areas or next to homes.
Pest problems are typically not serious, but potential offenders are caterpillars, nematodes, and scale. Diseases are also not a concern. Contact your county Extension office for advice if you notice any severe issues.