Fire Dragon Plant

Acalypha wilkesiana is an evergreen shrub. It grows 3 m high and spreads 2 m across. The stem is erect with many branches. The branches have fine hairs. It has a closely arranged crown. The leaves are coppery green with red splashes of colour. This gives them a mottled appearance. The leaves are large and broad with teeth around the edge. They can be 10–20 cm long and 15 cm wide. The leaves are finely hairy. They can be flat or crinkled. The flowers are reddish in spikes at the end of branches. They have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers are in long spikes which hang downwards while the female flowers are in short spikes. They do not show up easily as they are often hidden among the leaves. The flower stalks are 10–20 cm long.

A. wilkesiana is a tropical and subtropical plant which grows naturally in Vanuatu and occurs in the Pacific Islands. It prefers light well drained soil and is suited to a protected shady position. It can be damaged by both drought and frost. It needs a minimum temperature above 10 °C. It is best suited to hardiness zones 9-12.

The plant is susceptible to mealy bug infection, which can result in growth retardation and also cause high fungal contaminations in in vitro studies. To reduce the mealy bug’s infection, 90% ethanol can be directly applied to the infestations using paint brushes.

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