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Euphorbia cotinifolia is a species is worthy of it's own page. The "Tropical smoketree" has been a rare conservatory plant for ages but many of you have never seen one. I'll confess it was totally new to me in 2003 seeing it outside here at the Norfolk Botanical Garden. Wow! I was and am smitten with this tropical and woody beauty. It is a summer shrub which can be overwintered in a warm greenhouse. It passes my "ultra rare test" because 99.9% of our library references and the 65,000 taxa RHS PLANT FINDER do not include it. The way the NBG staff has planted it regularly in a bed of Lantana looks sharp. That combo with light green, yellow, and orange works. As a fan of putting red plants with lime or chartreuse foliage (in some moderation of course), that sort of blend would be nice too.

The color of the leaves, their perfect shape, and ornate venation are simply heavenly. It is more appealing in leaf than any Cotinus I know. This is partly because the leaves are more rounded, regular to the eye, and thinner to allow light to shine through. The color lasts all summer as well. The radiant red colors that come to the eye and lens from this plant are amazing. Doubtless someone will rename it "ruby something" before long. It is dense but somehow informal enough to be pleasing. Overall the habit is broadly pyramidal to subglobose from multiple stems.

It shimmers and glows and even has complex metallic looks some parts of the day. I would call it the perfect tropical bedding plant except that the species is used to poison fish in the Caribbean and may have toxic elements of concern to humans. Many Euphorbia are toxic and caustic in their sap so it is not of special concern to my knowledge. The display is everything but toxic and I think will charm you and light up your sunny garden. The flowers are tiny and ivory in color, nothing impressive but offer some contrast to the dark leaf (see third photo above).  Glasshouse Works has offered it since at least 1990.

Click all the above images to enlarge.


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