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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - July 27, 2011

From: Hernando, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Plant Identification
Title: Plant identification of chenille-like plant in Florida
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Central Florida. I have a small, 8-10 inch plant that grows wild in the yard and has a 1 to 1-1/2 inch, bright red, feathery flower on it. I can't seem to find it on the internet and I'm wondering what it is. Some say it's chenille but the description of chenille doesn't fit since it's not a bush and doesn't get any bigger than about 10 inches. Thanks.

ANSWER:

Acalypha hispida (chenille plant) is the ornamental plant you refer to and it is a native of New Guinea and Malaysia.  There are several other species, both native and non-native, of the Acalypha that grow in Florida and one of these is likely to be the plant you describe.  

The most likely one is Acalypha chamaedrifolia (bastard copperleaf).   It is a native (Florida and the West Indies) herbaceous plant that grows only few inches tall.  Here are more photos and information and cultivation information.  There is a cultivar called red cat's tail that has flowers that are redder than the native version.

If that doesn't look like your plant, here are some other possibilities in the Genus Acalypha that grow in Florida:

Acalypha alopecuroidea (foxtail copperleaf) is a non-native herbaceous plant about 30 cm high and here is a photo.

Acalypha amentacea subsp. wilkesiana (Wilkes' copperleaf) is a non-native woody shrub about 1.5 m tall.

Acalypha arvensis (field copperleaf) is a non-native herbaceous plant growing 30 to 50 cm high.  Here are more photos and more information.

Acalypha gracilens (slender threeseed mercury) is a native herbaceous plant that grows to less than a meter tall.   Here are more photos and information form our Native Plant Database.

Acalypha ostryifolia (pineland threeseed mercury) is a small native herbaceous plant.  Here are photos and more information from our Native Plant Database and the University of Missouri Extension.

Acalypha rhomboidea (diamond threeseed mercury) is a native herbaceous plant that grows to about 0.3 m.  Here are photos.

Acalypha setosa (Cuban copperleaf) is a non-native herbaceous plant about 0.3 m high.  Here are more photos.

Finally, if none of the above appears to be your plant, please visit our Plant Identification page where you will find links to plant identification forums where you can submit photos for identification.

 

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