Q: I just moved to Florida and was told my visiting guests could write their names on the leaves of some kind of subtropical plant to thank me for their stay. What’s even stranger is that if my guests return in a year, their names will still be on the leaves. What kind of plant is it? I’d love to use it as a permanent “living” guestbook.
A: You’re talking about Clusia rosea, known as the Autograph Plant. It’s a native to Florida with leathery, paddle-shaped leaves that invite you to scratch out your name or initials. (Clusia rosea is also called pitch apple, a reference to the one-time practice of using the resinous black substance in its seed pods to caulk seams of boats.)
I can tell you right now that this beautiful, drought-tolerant plant has your name written all over it. It does very well in variable light conditions; is highly resistant to disease and insects; and makes a wonderful, evergreen screening material if left as a multi-stemmed shrub. If you’re looking for privacy in your subtropical garden as well as an interesting conversation piece, choose the enduring Autograph Plant. What other written proof do you need?