Last week, we asked our readers to identify the plant below. The person who correctly identified it first would win the mystery plant. This week, Sally Skabar came the closest by identifying the genus as Jatropha. Congratulations, Sally!
Coral Plant, Jatropha Multifida
With unique leaves, a bright red flower, drought tolerance and an ability to grow in pots or in the ground, this plant is a great choice for south Florida. In the ground, this shrub usually grows to 10 feet but may sometimes grow to 20 feet. Native to Mexico, it is commonly grown as a specimen plant due to its tropical look. It will drop its leaves below 40°F and it will recover from a light freeze. If the weather is not too cold, the coral plant will flower year-round but it blooms more profusely in the summer months.
This species, like all Jatrophas, have a milky white sap that can be an irritant to some people. It’s this sap that led Thomas Edison to experiment with other species of Jatrophas as a potential source of latex for his rubber research. There’s no known evidence that Edison experimented with the coral plant, but it was planted here as early as 1908 and was still on the grounds in 1931. The Edisons likely enjoyed the plant for the same reasons we do today, including its ability to attract birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects.
Coral plants are available for purchase in the Estates Garden Shoppe: $8 for 1 gallon, $12 for 3 gallon.