Invades spoil islands, beach dunes, marshes, tropical hammocks, pinelands, mangrove and cypress swamps, scrub habitats, and coastal strands, replacing native species.
Single-trunked tree with dark gray outer bark and orange inner bark. Leaves are alternate, once compound (usually even-pinnate), with petioles swollen at the base; 4-12 leaflets, stalked, oblong, leathery, shiny yellowish green, to 20 cm (8 in) long and 7.5 cm (3 in) wide, with margins entire and tips rounded or slightly indented. Small, numerous, greenish-yellow flowers are followed by short-stalked, yellow-orange fruit that are relished by birds.
Carrotwood might be confused with the rare and endangered native species American toadwood (Cupania glabra), which is found in the Florida Keys, the West Indies, and Tropical America. American toadwood can be distinguished from carrotwood by its leaflets, which have scalloped or coarsely toothed margins, and by its green colored fruits and green colored arils enclosing the seeds. May also be confused with the native marlberry, Ardisia escallonioides (Schlecht. & Cham.), but marlberry's leaves are smaller, 10-15 cm (4-6 in) long, and its flower clusters terminal.
University of Florida Herbarium specimens document carrotwood cultivation as early as 1955 in eastern Florida. A separate introduction in Sarasota, Florida in 1968 resulted in large scale propagation and use as an ornamental tree. Carrotwood became a popular landscape tree throughout southern Florida in the late 1970s and early 1980s. By 1990, wild carrotwood seedlings began to be seen in the wild in various habitats.
It is found in private and commercial landscapes and naturalized in coastal counties from Brevard and Hillsborough south to Miami-Dade and Collier Counties.
Remove seedlings. Cut larger trees, and treat the stump immediately with triclopyr ester. Basal bark applications are also effective. Dispose of seeds in plastic bags. May require follow-up treatments.