Gardening with Georgia

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A croton by another name

Mon, Nov 08, 2010 at 03:10:59 PM

Red undersides of the leaves of this
Chinese croton are quite beautiful,
once you see them.

If it had not been a windy day, I wouldn’t have stopped abruptly at the sight of the shrub, Excoecaria cochinchinensis, or Chinese croton. I’ve walked past it all the time and never noticed it. But the wind picked up some branches and revealed the beautiful red underside of the leaves. From Southeast Asia and China, this lovely plant has inconspicuous flowers in the axils of its elliptical leaves. And that’s OK to be shy about your flowers when you have such glamorous foliage. Marilyn Griffiths, in charge of plant records for the garden, said Excoecaria cochinchinensis had been given to Fairchild by Ree Gardens, which is the nursery belonging to Marie and Steve Nock.

Marie, who is a croton aficionado, received a small plant from friends in Jamaica and initially thought, from the common name, she had a really unusual addition to her croton collection. Then she unwrapped it. This plant is in the Euphorbiaceae, as is the ornamental croton Codiaeum variegatum, but it is another genus. Nonetheless, she says, “It’s a real survivor” and can take sun or shade. It’s often grown in a hanging basket to show off those beautiful undersides of the leaves. As a shrub, it can reach four feet or so.

As you walk the path toward the Café and pass the Standing Gorilla, the Chinese croton will be perhaps six or ten feet farther along on your right. With luck, it will be a windy day.


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