Monographs Details: Sabinea florida (Vahl) DC.
Authority: Britton, Nathaniel L. Flora Borinqueña.
Description:Species Description - Frequent on banks and hillsides at lower and middle elevations in moist parts of Porto Rico, often in stony or rocky soil, and occasional in relatively dry districts, growing also on the Porto Rico islands Vieques and Culebra, and on the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas, St. John, Tortola and Virgin Gorda, but not recorded from elsewhere, this small tree is one of the most beautiful in the West Indies when in bloom, its long branches densely covered with pale purple or lavender flowers, very conspicuous, because borne on wood of previous seasons, and thus not masked by the leaves, which are mostly above them, near the ends of the branches. When first described botanically, in the very rare little book by Hans West, cited above, it was included in the genus Robinia, the North American Locust-trees, but was subsequently recognized as the type of a distinct genus. Hans West, a Danish botanist, collected plants in St. Croix and other West Indian Islands from 1788 to about 1802. The tree is occasionally planted for ornament, and well deserves horticultural use; we have observed it usually as isolated trees, or a few growing in proximity, not forming colonies.
Sabinea, commemorating Joseph Sabine, an English botanist, consists of only 3 known species, shrubs or small trees. Sabinea punicea, also illustrated in this work, is endemic in central and western Porto Rico; Sabinea carinalis, endemic on Dominica, has larger, scarlet flowers; it was grown from seed at the Forest Station in 1924. They have once-compound leaves, of several pairs of small, untoothed leaflets, and rather large, slender-stalked flowers. The top-shaped, or bell-shaped calyx is nearly truncate; the standard petal is broad, the somewhat curved wing-petals oblong or obovate, the keel blunt; of the 10 stamens 9 are united by their filaments and 1 is separate, the anthers alike in all; the stalked ovary contains many ovules; the slender style is topped by a small stigma. The narrow, flat pods split longitudinally into 2, thin, somewhat twisted valves, releasing the flattened seeds.
Sabinea florida is a tree about 10 meters high, or lower, often appearing shrubby, the wand-like branches elongated, the twigs appressed-hairy. The short-stalked leaves are from 4 to 11 centimeters long, with from 5 to 15 pairs of oblong or elliptic leaflets from 8 to 15 millimeters long and blunt at both ends, or minutely tipped. The showy flowers are mostly clustered, on very slender stalks from 6 to 20 millimeters long; the calyx is, about 5 millimeters long, the standard petal from 15 to 18 millimeters broad; the stamens are of 2 different lengths, 5 shorter than the other 5, the style incurved. The pod is from 7 to 10 centimeters long, and from 4 to 7 millimeters wide.
Our illustration was first published in Addisonia, plate 497, September, 1930.
Robinia florida Vahl; West, Bidrag til Beskrivelse over Ste. Croix 3OO. 1793
Sabinea florida De Candolle, Annales des Sciences Naturelles I. 4: 92. 1825.