The name Acalypha is from the Greek meaning nettle. The majority of Acalyphas are native to the Americas with a few from Africa. Acalyphas are easy to grow; they have no special requirements and they are drought resistant.
A careful watch should be kept on Acalyphas as they can suffer from white-fly, mealy bug, and spider mite. Once badly infested, it is best to prune out the infected areas.
Acalypha hispida, has large green leaves with a mass of hanging red flowers that give the plant its common name, ‘Red Cat’s Tails’. It does best in semi-shade. It can be planted in the ground or potted.
Acalypha wilkesiana is grown for its leaf colour of which there are many different varoatopms. It can grow into a large shrub or be kept pruned. To achieve the best colours it requires full sun.
Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Hoffmanii’
Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Hoffmanii’ Moorea
Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Hoffmanii’ Irish Petticoat.
Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Hoffmanii’ Moorea
Both of these prefer light shade, and should be pruned when necessary.
Acrostichum speciosum or Leather Fern, is a mangrove fern and is one of only a couple of ferns that manage to grow in saline water. At the coast this thrives in garden ponds (fresh water). It will grow in full sunlight or shade; but does not like being planted too deep. Once established it gives no trouble but and needs to be kept under control as in no time it can take over a small pond. Young plants move easier and recover faster than old established plants. Palm weavers love to nest and use the fronds for building material.
Note Acrostichum aureum is like to A speciosum but it is golden in colour.
The common name for this stately tree is the Baobab. It was named after Michel Adanson, the French naturalist who first described the Adansonia digitata.
Most Adansonia are indigenous to Madagascar but Adansonia digitata is native to Africa. In the early stages, the baobab is hardly recognisable as the ‘monster’ of a tree that it becomes. The Baobab is the largest succulent in the world. Shedding its leaves during the dry season, it can store as much as 100,000 litres of water in the trunk, and can reach heights of 30 metres, whilst the trunk can measure 15 metres in diameter.
After rain the tree produces large, heavy, sweet-scented white flowers which open in the late afternoon and last for one night only. The flowers are pollinated by fruit bats. The fruit of the baobab tree is rich in antioxidants, vitamin C, calcium, and magnesium.
Radiocarbon dating has shown that some specimens, are at least 2000 years old.
Michel Adanson (1727-1806) was one of the most important naturalists of the eighteenth century. Naming Adansonia digitata was in recognition for all his research and work, collecting, recording, and writing volumes on many natural history subjects.
The Adenium obesum or desert rose is indigenous to Kenya and other parts of Africa. It is a succulent and stores water in its roots and can go for long periods without water.
Adenium obesum can be planted directly into the ground or into pots. Moving or re-potting is best done in the dry season giving the roots time to re-establish before the rains. (Root rot is one of the biggest problems with Adenium .) Whether planting them in the ground or pots, they should not be planted too deeply. This helps prevent root rot and exposed roots add character to the plant.
The soil used when growing Adenium in pots, should drain easily. This is especially important during the rainy season. Potted Adeniums will grow huge roots, so they should be re-potted regularly.
Adeniums are largely disease resistant. Occasionally scale attack the underside of the leaves, which then are best removed by hand. A yellow aphid, Aphis nerii Boyer de Fonscolombe, is particularly fond of this plant. Their favourite place is around new forming buds, but spraying using a little soapy water will address their invasion too. The Kula miti beetle is reputedly deadly on the plants.
Propagate from cuttings or seeds. Fresh seeds germinate easily. Keep the seed compost on the dry side, even after germination. The best way to increase a collection is by air layering.
The sap of the Desert Roses is highly toxic. It is used to poison arrows for hunting.
The Adiantum aethiopicum or Maidenhair Fern is a delight in the garden but getting the right conditions can be a challenge.
Maidenhair Fern needs to be grown in a coarse mixture, with plenty of compost and manure and it needs to be in the shade. This is quite temperamental plant, until it finds a place that it is really happy. If it is allowed to dry out, the leaves will turn brown and the plant will probably die. It will also die if it is over watered. If your plant looks dead, give it a chance as sometimes, even if it has nothing to show, it may re-sprout. It is free from the usual garden pests.
Adonidia merrillii syn Veitchia merrillii
Adonidia merrillii, better known as the Christmas Palm, was named after Elmer D Merrill, the 20th century botanist. It a moderately fast growing solitary palm that resembles a dwarf version of the royal palm (Roystonea regia). It is easy to grow and drought resistant. It is tolerant of poor soil, slightly salt tolerant and prefers full sun.
Once mature, the palm flowers constantly and proves a great attraction to bees which can be seen in the morning enjoying a feed. Orchids also thrive on A merrillii. The fruits turn bright red before dropping to the ground and germinating, producing thousands of young plants.
In Greek mythology, Agave was the daughter of Cadmus, God of Lust and Desire!
Agaves are succulents and have long thick fleshy leaves that naturally form a rosette and usually end with a sharp thorn. They are easy to grow, need only a small amount of attention, and more importantly they are extremely drought tolerant. When first planting Agaves, the position should be selected carefully as they don’t like to be moved.
Agave americana is originally from Mexico. It is now grown worldwide and even considered to be invasive. It grows well around the coast, wild and domesticated! It can grow into a very large plant, sending out suckers.
Agave americana var marginata
Agave american var marginata is not as common as its sister plant, but has the same requirements.
Agave angustifolia marginata is native to Mexico and central North America. It is grows wild and domesticated!
Agave desmetiana variegata
Agave desmetiana Variegata is quick growing and produces many off-sets. It is a very architectural plant. It can be grown in pots or the ground. After flowering the plant dies
Afave filifera is called the thread Agave. It is a compact plant with a dense rosette and stiff pointed leaves that are edged with white fibres.
Agave gypsophila grows wild in Mexico. and is a slow growing solitary plant, with blue-grey leaves, reaching only 1 m in height.
Agave sisalana was originally shipped from the Spanish colonial port of Sisal in Yucatan hence the name. It has a life span of approximately ten years, during which the plant produces up to 250 usable leaves, which are turned into fibre.
In 2013, Brazil topped the leader board by producing 150.6 thousand tons Tanzania second, with 34.9 thousand tons and Kenya third with 28 thousand tons.
Aglaonema was first introduced to the Europe in 1885: since then it has been hybridized many times. It is closely related to the Dieffenbachia and the Arum family. All enjoy the same humid, shady, ‘jungle’ environment. The soil should rich in compost and remain damp. Aglaonema are poisonous and can irritate the skin.
In Asia Aglaonema are considered to be a lucky plant, and even reputed to have predicted a winning lottery ticket number! Propagation is by dividing
Aglaonema costatum The dark green leaves with the white spots makes it rather special. It likes to grow in deep shade with good moist soil and lots of compost. It is pest free.
Aglaonema marantifollum grows in the garden and makes a most attractive ground cover. It hates cold conditions and so thrives at the coast in shady areas. It does better with good soil that has lots of compost.
Allamanda is native to South and Central America and was named to honour Frederich Allamand, the 18th century Swiss botanist.
Allamandas love the sun, and do fairly well on the sea front, withstanding the salty sea breeze. They are vigorous climbers, requiring strong support; and they are extremely drought tolerant. They can suffer badly from the ‘rust’ fungi.
Allamanda blanchetti has funneled shaped reddish maroon flower. This is not as free flowering as the yellow varieties and the flowers fade when grown in full sun.
Allamanda cathartica is the largest flowering yellow variety.
Allamanda schotti has smaller yellow flowers. It flowers freely year round.
Alocasia is a large tropical or sub-tropical family with 79 species. They can be grown in the ground or in pots, preferring light shade. The growing medium should be rich and kept damp. If given the right conditions they can grow very large. Red Spider mite can be a problem, but increased humidity deters this pest.
Alocasia amazonica grows well outside but requires full shade and has to be kept on the dry side. Too much water or direct sun and it certainly goes into a decline.
Alocasia macrorhiza is easy to grow and tolerate a fair amount of sun.
Alocasia plumbea is happy at the coast and liked to grow in dapple shade.
Alocosia violocea is very easy and grows fast, even becoming invasive. It is best planted in open ground close to water.
Up dated 28/6/2018
There are over 250 species of Aloe. They are native to tropical and southern Africa, Madagascar, and some islands in the Indian Ocean, as well as to Jordan and the Arabian Peninsula. When Aloes are mentioned, Aloe-vera immediately comes to mind, but in fact, Aloes come in a range of different colours and sizes, all with thorns, making them rather unfriendly, and some are deadly poisonous. Aloes are slow growing and don’t like to be over-watered. They can grow in full sun, but prefer to be shaded during the hottest part of the day.
Up dated 28/6/2018
Aloe barbadensis better known as Aloe vera native to Southern Africa it has been used for medicinal purposes for over 5000 years.
Aloe dorothea was first found 1890, near the Pangani River in Tanzania, and was named to honour Miss Dorothy Westhead. It is an attractive Aloe, which is low growing, clump forming and brightly coloured.
Aloe hemmingii is native to Somalia and is now on the vulnerable list.
Aloe juvenna is native to Kenya, it is fairly small with sharp teeth at the leaf margins. The colour improves with more light.
Aloe pendens is from the Yemen, as are many of the other rock growing Aloes. It has a spreading habit that can form a dense cluster, making it a good ground cover plant, or in a hanging basket.
Aloe variegate is indigenous to South Africa and Namibia. It doesn’t require much care; and grows in full morning or afternoon sun with slight shading during the hottest part of the day.
Image to follow
Un named Aloes
Alpinia purpurata, are native to Malaysia, where they grow in tropical and subtropical climates. They are indigenous to parts of Asia, Australia, and the Pacific Islands. This is the largest genus in the ginger family, with approximately 230 species. In natural conditions, Apinia like to grow in the shade of forest trees. They are drought tolerant, but do much better if given a lot of water and good compost. Alpinias need space to be seen at their best. They are resistant to all garden pests.
Alpinia zerumbet likes a rich soil in full sun or partial shade. Like other Ginger’s it needs good rich compost and manure and as much water as can be spared, and in return it will produce beautiful flowers that resemble sea shells. It is not as free flowering as Alpinia purpurata.
Alpinia vittata has beautiful foliage but seldom flowers. If it gets too dry, the plant dies back, but returns with the rains.
Amaranthus tricolour is easily grown in open ground or pots from seed. It fairly drought tolerant, likes full sun and is very showy. The leaves can be eaten raw or cooked taste of spinach flavour. They are susceptible to Red spider mite.
There is some confusion regarding the Amaryllis and the Hippeastrum. Most of the flowers called Amaryllis are in fact Hippeastrum. The true Amaryllis is a small genus, with only two species, which are native to South Africa and found in the Western Cape. Amaryllis belladonna often called the Belladonna Lily – or ‘naked lady’ (because the flower appear on a long stem before the leaves) is the best known.
The name Ananas is taken from the Tupi (people) word ‘nanas’, meaning “excellent fruit”. Circa 1398 the pine cone was originally called a pineapple but some three hundred years later the name was changed to “pine cone”. In 1493 Christopher Columbus came across the fruit on the island of Guadeloupe. There is a painting by Hendrick Danckerts showing Charles II accepting a pineapple. It is said that this was the first one to be grown in England. It became very fashionable to grow fruit in hot houses, especially pineapples, and houses called Pineries were built for that purpose. It was a symbol of wealth to have exotic fruit displayed on the dinner table; though these were not placed there to be eaten and were often returned to the table for other parties until the fruit became rotten. The cost of producing a pineapple in those days was in the region of £6000 in today money.
If grown correctly, the pineapple takes up to 2 years growing before it flowers,; Mine have been moved so are taking longer. The pineapple has approx 200 flowers, joined together to create the fruit. Fruit from pollinated flowers do not have the best flavour and, where pineapples are grown commercially, pollination is discouraged.
The pineapple stops ripening once it is picked, so select one with a good sweet smell. The fruit can be left at room temperature for a couple of days before serving – this will not make the fruit any sweeter but it will become softer and juicer. When eating fresh pineapple it can cause a sore mouth – this is due to the calcium oxalate in the plant, which is found in Bromelaids.
The Annona species originated in South America and now flourishes in most tropical climates. Both the Annona squamosa, Custard apple, and Annona muricata, Soursop, grow well with little or no extra attention. Mealy bug, particularly on the fruit, can be a problem.
Annona muricata, commonly called Soursop, is an attractive tree in the garden that grows well in full sun. The salty breezes can cause it to shed its leaves. The flowers are waxy and shaped like tiny cabbages. It fruits continuously; the huge-heart shaped shiny green fruit have spiky skin and can be up to 20 cm long. The fruit though slightly acidic taste quite palatable and can be eaten unprepared, made into a juice or ice cream. The leaves, seeds, bark, root and fruit are all used medicinally and the plant is reputedly an excellent in the fight against cancer.
Annona squamosa, the Custard apple, also grows freely at the coast. The tree is not as attractive as the Annona muricata but it fruits all the time. Mealy bug, particularly on the fruit, can be a problem.
The species originates from South America. There are 800 – 1500 species though this is only an approximate number as new species are still being found. Anthurium andraeanum is an epiphyte, and hermaphrodite; ‘spathe’ which is not the flower, carries tiny flowers, which are both male and female. To do well Anthuriums require high humidity and a course medium to grow, chopped coconut husk, mixed with a little proper garden compost (not garden soil). They prefer indirect light but a little direct sunlight will not hurt, especially if it is early morning or late afternoon. To propagate, divide the plant once it has become large enough.
The Anthurium is listed in the NASA Clean Air Study as removing ‘nasties’ like ammonia and formaldehyde from the air.
Anthurium bonpladii. It was quite a surprise when I realised that my plant was an Anthurium as it doesn’t look at all like any others I have. It is very easy to grow. Sometimes it has been in full sun; other times in deep shade, it seems to thrive where ever it is placed.
Anthurium crystallinum is difficult to keep of plants healthy looking and at its best. Unlike other anthuriums, it prefers to be grown on the dry side – too much water or direct sun and it goes into a decline.
Antigonon leptopus is native to Mexico. It is a fast growing perennial, tolerating poor soil, and a wide range of light conditions. It can cover coral within the reach of sea spray. Once established it is difficult to eradicate as it has underground tubers, that re-grow all constantly. In Florida it is categorized as invasive species and is listed as a Category II invasive exotic.
The Aphelandra is a genus of approximately 170 species of flowering plants, native to regions of the tropical Americas. The name is from the Greek ‘aphelesp’ simple + ‘andros’ genitive of ‘aner’ man, indicating that the plants are single celled. They grow in open ground, in full sun, with compost and mulch to retain dampness in the soil, although they are fairly drought tolerant.
Aphelandra sinclariana is not as easy to grow as Aphelandra tetragona but, when it does flower, it is outstanding. Aphelandra sinclariana likes to grow in dappled shade, with a medium that has plenty of compost. It is not drought tolerant and needs a fair amount of attention.
Aphelandra tetragona flowers most of the time, but when pruned it takes a while to come back into flower. Tips should not be pinched out as this is where the spike of flowers appears.
Arachnis flos-aeris var
Arachnis flos-aeris var commonly called Scorpion orchid, is native to mainland Malaysia, Sumatra and Java where they can be found growing in the mangrove forests. Treat this like other orchids and plant next to a tree where it can clamber up. They like some protection from the hottest part of the day, but also need good light. Spray at least once a day.
Argemone mexicana is native to Central America and Mexico. It is a tough, drought tolerant and robust pioneer plant that has been farmed as a dry land crop for biodiesel production (the oil is poisonous) and is widely used in traditional medicine. A recent study also shows it’s effectiveness in the treatment of malaria. Argemone mexicana has very decorative leaves and when the flowers appear it is quite beautiful. For a while this struggled at the coast, but now it is happy and it is growing everywhere. The problem is that it self-seeds, so tiny plants spring up. They are prickly and difficult to remove. Change of heart this is a nasty invasive prickly weed no longer welcome in the garden.
Aristolochia elegans is easy to grow from seed. It needs to be planted where it can clamber into the sun, so the support should to be strong as the plants massive foliage can become very heavy. The leaves get burnt by the sea breezes. Florida has classified this as an invasive weed.
Asplenium nidus or Bird’s Nest Fern is native to many tropical countries including Eastern Africa. It can grow as an epiphyte or a terrestrial plant.
It needs to be grown in heavy shade with high humidity. It is a greedy plant and likes a top dressing of compost with plenty of humus including spent coconut husks and old cow manure on a regular basis. It is not easy to propagate as there are no side shoots.
The Aster grows happily anywhere in the garden. It does best in containers and mine are near the sea front in full sun. With a little water, it will flower continually. Once a flush of flowers is over, cut back the dead heads, top dress generously, and water – another flush of flowers will follow. It is fairly drought resistant and, without water, will lay dormant waiting for rain. It propagates easily by dividing the plant.
Aster macrophyllus white
Aster novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’’
Aster oblongifolius ‘October Skies’
Averrhoa carambola makes an attractive ornamental tree. It is not fussy about soil or lack of it, growing well in heavy coral ground. It likes full sun and is drought tolerant. The sea breeze causes the leaves to fall badly, but the salinity does not seem to affect the roots.
Averrhoa carambola flowers after rain and bears fruit. The fruit is edible; the flesh is crunchy, firm, and extremely juicy, the texture similar in consistency to a grape. Fruits can be picked while still slightly green and will ripen at room temperature.
Azadirachta indica or the Neem tree, comes from India, where it is considered to be a sacred gift of nature It has been used for treatment of different ailments since prehistoric times. Locally it is called the Kilifi tree although it is not indigenous to Kenya.
This is a dirty tree, always ‘dropping’ something; leaves, fruit or dead twigs. The roots are a more serious problem—they have no respect for the foundations of houses and water tanks, and a careful eye has to be kept on any tree that is growing close to a building. It grows close to the sea shore, but suffers badly from the sea breeze and sheds all the leaves that catch the wind.
The World Health Organization estimates that 80 per cent of the population in developing countries rely on the Neem tree for their medicine.