There are two species of wild coffee growing along the Conservancy of Southwest Florida Nature Center trails. One is shiny leaf wild coffee, Psychotria nervosa, and the other is satin leaf wild coffee, Psychotria sulzneri.
The Latin name of this species, "nervosa" describes the deeply grooved veins (nerves) in each shiny, green leaf. Its leaves look somewhat like gardenia leaves, and it fact, the plant is related to a gardenia.
This species grows to become a medium-sized shrub.
As shown below, it produces white flowers, followed by red berries. The berries darken to purple with age. It is unwise to attempt to use the fruit of this plant to make coffee. The beans (dried berries) are very soft and have a very bitter taste.
Butterflies and bees are attracted to the flowers, while birds and other animals eat the berries and hide in the foliage.
For many years, shiny leaf wild coffee has used been used for medicinal purposes. Hundreds of years ago, it was used to treat dysentery. In modern times in the West Indies, Mexico and South America, it is used to stop bleeding, reduce fever, and treat colds, asthma, swollen feet, stomach aches, and skin problems.
This wild coffee does not grow to be as tall as P. nervosa. Its flowers are green, and its leaves are not shiny, or as deeply grooved as P. nervosa. The fruit is red, orange, or yellow.
Like shiny leaf coffee, satin leaf coffee has medicinal qualities. It has been used to reduce fever and treat colds, asthma, stomach problems, swelling of limbs, tumors, and skin problems.
The photograph below shows Psychotria nervosa and Psychotria sulzneri growing side by side along the Hammock Trail. Can you distinguish the difference between the two?