Philippines Medusa & Varietated Spiral Ginger

©Dawne M. Dunton

Myrtle Beach, United States

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Acalypha hispida, the Chenille plant, is a flowering shrub which belongs to the family Euphorbiaceae, the subfamily Acalyphinae, and the genus Acalypha. Acalypha is the fourth largest genus of the Euphorbiaceae family, and contains many plants native to Hawaii and Oceania. This plant is also known as the Philippines Medusa, red hot cat’s tail and fox tail in English, pokok ekor kucing in Malay, Rabo de Gato in Portuguese and Tai tượng đuôi chồn in Vietnamese. Acalypha hispida is cultivated as a house plant because of its attractiveness and brilliantly colored, furry flowers.

The plant originated in Oceania, but has become naturalized to multiple countries in North America, including the United States, Mexico, and Belize. It can grow to be five to twelve feet (1.8-3.7 meters) tall, and have a spread of three to six feet (0.9-1.8 meters), with potted plants being the smallest in growth. The plant has become somewhat domesticated, due to the nature and color of its flowers. It can be grown from seeds as well as from cuttings. It can be kept either as an outdoor plant or as a houseplant. However, care should be taken in growing it, as all parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested by animals.

Wild Ginger ‘Variegatus’ is one of my favorite foliage plants. It has spiraling red stems lined with green-and-white leaves; a combination that makes it a real stand out in the garden or as a patio plant. Established plants produce red “cones” and white flowers that are textured like crepe paper. An excellent container plant. Can grow up to 5 ft. tall. Hardy to Zone 9. Commonly called variegated spiral ginger.

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