I haven’t been to Belle Isle for about a month and I couldn’t believe all the new things blooming. I had never noticed this shrub before, but with the blooms it attracted my attention immediately.
The fire bush or Hamelia patens is a native of Mexico and also grows in Florida. Here in the United States, it is hardy in Zone 9-11. The tubular orange buds turn into a reddish flower which hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to. The flowers are followed by decorative red fruit that ripens to a blackish purple fruit. Not only is the fruit eaten by birds, the fruit is edible for humans. I have read that the extract of the leaves and stems have been used to treat skin diseases and rashes, but it isn’t something I would try. Where it is hardy, the shrub can reach heights of 8-12 feet, but as an annual in non-hardy areas, it usually reaches about 2′ tall. It can take a lot of heat and some drought and keep blooming.
If you want to see this plant blooming, head down to the Anna Scripps Whitcomb Conservatory on Belle Isle in Detroit. If you aren’t in Michigan, head to your local conservatory and see what is blooming today. You might be surprised! I was.