My Florida Backyard suffered a pretty hard freeze this week, and the gardens took some fairly serious damage. Fortunately, before the freeze, we happened to get some pictures of the Duranta erecta, often called Golden Dewdrop.
This is a very common shrub in warmer regions. It's native to Central America, but does not seem to be invasive in Florida (unlike places like Australia and Hawaii, where it's considered a noxious pest). It's very easy to find at nurseries all over the state, often under the cultivar name "Gold Mound" or "Cuban Gold".
Duranta has a lot of value for the wildlife gardener. Like most shrubs, it provides shelter and cover for smaller animals. The shrub frequently has both flowers and berries at the same time. The light blue flowers are a draw for butterflies, and they're followed by orange berries enjoyed by songbirds. (Note that these berries are toxic, and children and small animals have been killed by eating them, so you may want to avoid planting this in areas where kids or dogs play.)
Duranta can grow up to 20 feet tall and wide, but you can easily keep it under control with vigorous pruning. It generally sustains damage during a heavy frost, so we take advantage of that time to prune it back, sometimes by as much as half. This allows it to grow back more fully and compactly, perfect for the small butterfly garden where it's located. We just completed that annual pruning in My Florida Backyard, as a result of the freeze, so we're glad we grabbed these pictures to share with you before the dramatic haircut!