Croton plant

 Croton plant

Codiaeum variegatum

Family: Euphorbiaceae

Introduction:

                                    Croton has glossy, leathery leaves that are very variable in shape, highly colored and variegated.  The leaves can be ovate or linear and variegated with pink, orange, green, brown, yellow and white.

Croton is an exotic looking plant that is grown in warm greenhouses or conservatory or as a indoor plant.

It is native to Indonesia, Malaysia, Australia and the western Pacific Ocean islands, and growing in open forests and scrub.

Botanical:

                          It is an evergreen shrub growing to 3 m (9.8 ft) tall and has large, thick, leathery, shiny evergreen leaves, alternately arranged, 5–30 cm long and 0.5–8 cm broad. The inflorescence are long racemes 8–30 cm  long, with male and female flowers on separate inflorescences;   the male flowers are white with five small petals and 20–30 stamens, the female flowers yellowish, with no petals.

The fruit is a capsule around 1 cm diameter, containing three 6 mm seeds. The stems contain milky sap that bleeds from cut stems.

Cultivation:

                        In tropical climates, crotons make attractive hedges and potted patio specimens, valued for their striking foliage. They only survive outdoors where temperatures do not normally drop below 10° to 13°C in winter; colder temperatures can cause leaf loss.In colder climates, the plants are grown in greenhouses or as house plants.

The cultivated garden crotons are usually smaller than the wild plant, rarely over 1.8 m tall, and come in a wide diversity of leaf shapes and colours.

Varieties:

                             For a plant with this incredible diversity, it’s amazing there is only species (C. variegatum). 

Crotons are often subdivided by their leaf type: curling, twisted, oak leaf, narrow, broad, oval, etc.

Also, sometimes different plants grouped under the name  Codiaeum variegatum var. pictum (Lodd.) Müll. Arg., though this is not botanically distinct from the species and usually treated as a synonym of it.

For that, there are several hundred of croton cultivars, selected and bred for their foliage. Depending on the cultivar, the leaves may be ovate to linear, entire to deeply lobed or crinkled, and variegated with green, white, purple, orange, yellow, red or pink.

There are different varieties like Dreadlocks, Ann Rutherford, Mona Lisa, and Irene Kingsley.

Propagation:

                            Crotons are easily propagated through stem cutting. Preferable usage  rooting hormone to increase the odds of success.

Crotons sometimes produce “sprouts,” or shoots that are completely different from the parent plant. These can be potted up independently.

Seeds used only in breeding program for scientific purposes,

                       Only cuttings will produce a plant that is identical to the parent.

Toxicity:

                          As with many of the Euphorbiaceae, the sap can cause skin eczema in some people. The bark, roots, latex, and leaves are poisonous, containing the toxin called 5-deoxyingenol, also, the latex has caused eczema in some gardeners after repeated exposure.

The plant contains an oil which is violently purgative and is suspected of being a carcinogen. Consumption of the seeds can be fatal to children.

         Chewing the bark and roots may be cause burning of the mouth. 

Dr. Waleed Abobatta

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