Monday, August 25, 2008

Plant ID: Amaranthus tricolor


Chances are the plant you have photographed is neither a flower or a weed. What you have there in that photograph is actually a tropical plant that someone decided to grow as a large annual in their garden for the summer. I will admit that at first I was stumped, but luckily I have a good friend and mentor who happens to be a curator at the New York Botanical Garden so he was able to enlighten both of us.

Amaranthus tricolor, commonly called summer poinsettia, is a plant indigenous to Africa and Asia loved for its ornamental value and colorful foliage. Another common name is Chinese spinach, and rightfully so as it is grown as a leaf vegetable in some locations. Because it is hardy in USDA Zones 9-11 we would consider it a tropical plant up here in New York and only be able to grow it as an annual outdoors. There is one cultivar named ‘Joseph’s Coat’ which has a striking combination of yellow and red atop its otherwise green leaves. Thanks again to Marc we are guessing you spotted a specific cultivar named ‘Illumination’ which has those bright red leaves above the olive/red variegated leaves at its base and reaches about 42” tall. From what I understand they used to be planted more often as annuals in the garden but you do not see them in cultivation much any more.

Thanks for writing. I always love learning about new plants!

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