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Alabama Croton Croton alabamensis

Phonetic Spelling
KROH-tun al-uh-bam-EN-sis
Description

This southeastern native was first discovered in 1877 during a study of natural resources in Bibb County, Alabama.  Previously unidentified, a sample branch was collected and forwarded to a botanist who was also unable to identify.  However, based on the local where it was discovered, its resemblance to spurge, its three-parted fruits and the distinctive floral characteristics, it was named Alabama Croton.  In addition to being rare in the wild, and has also been deemed the rarest shrub in North America.  It is also difficult to find in plant nurseries. But it’s worth the quest.

It is a loose, open, semi-deciduous shrub, reaching around six feet in height with a spreading, mounding habit. The foliage is bright green above and silvery below, with the older leaves turning a showy pumpkin-orange in the fall. The foliage is also quite fragrant, described as resembling apples or bananas.  In some milder climates, the foliage may remain on the plant with showy green to orange coloring.  The foliage also allows the plant to survive in extremely dry conditions.  The glistening silver scales of the leaf underside allows it to reflect sunlight which in turn reduces the plant's heat load.  

The small, yellow-green flowers are similar to those of poinsettia (minus the large colorful bracts), and both belong to the spurge family (Euphorbiaceae). Other shared characteristics include milky sap and relative immunity from deer damage.  Each plant has separate male and female flowers produced on the same branch  

Alabama croton tolerates some degree of neglect and dryness, but semi-shade with moist but well-drained organic soils represent optimal conditions.  Your biggest challenge in cultivating this plant will be keeping more aggressive shrubs and vines from overgrowing it.

Insects, Diseases, and Other Plant Problems:  No serious issues.  Low branches that a left to touch the ground can form roots when contact with the ground is made.  This method of propagation is known as air layering.  

See this plant in the following landscape:
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#deciduous#drought tolerant#shrub#semi-evergreen#native shrub#low maintenance#rabbit resistant#endangered#deer resistant#thickets#subshrub#rare#sandy soils tolerant#shrub borders#woodland garden#native#fall color#thicket
 
Cultivars / Varieties:
Tags:
#evergreen#showy flowers#deciduous#drought tolerant#shrub#semi-evergreen#native shrub#low maintenance#rabbit resistant#endangered#deer resistant#thickets#subshrub#rare#sandy soils tolerant#shrub borders#woodland garden#native#fall color#thicket
  • Attributes:
    Genus:
    Croton
    Species:
    alabamensis
    Family:
    Euphorbiaceae
    Uses (Ethnobotany):
    Woodland areas
    Life Cycle:
    Woody
    Recommended Propagation Strategy:
    Layering
    Seed
    Stem Cutting
    Country Or Region Of Origin:
    Southern US Native, specifically Alabama
    Distribution:
    AL, TN, TX
    Wildlife Value:
    Many pollinators frequent this plant including beetles and bees.
    Play Value:
    Attractive Flowers
    Attracts Pollinators
    Buffer
    Colorful
    Easy to Grow
    Fragrance
    Screening
    Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems):
    Deer
    Dimensions:
    Height: 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
    Width: 6 ft. 0 in. - 10 ft. 0 in.
  • Whole Plant Traits:
    Plant Type:
    Shrub
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Habit/Form:
    Open
    Rounded
    Growth Rate:
    Medium
    Maintenance:
    Low
    Texture:
    Medium
  • Cultural Conditions:
    Light:
    Deep shade (Less than 2 hours to no direct sunlight)
    Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours)
    Soil Texture:
    High Organic Matter
    Soil pH:
    Neutral (6.0-8.0)
    Soil Drainage:
    Good Drainage
    Moist
    Occasionally Dry
    Available Space To Plant:
    6-feet-12 feet
    NC Region:
    Coastal
    Mountains
    Piedmont
    USDA Plant Hardiness Zone:
    6b, 6a, 7b, 7a, 8b, 8a
  • Fruit:
    Fruit Color:
    Brown/Copper
    Green
    Fruit Type:
    Drupe
    Fruit Length:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Width:
    < 1 inch
    Fruit Description:
    The fruit is a three angled capsule or drupe.
  • Flowers:
    Flower Color:
    Gold/Yellow
    White
    Flower Inflorescence:
    Raceme
    Flower Value To Gardener:
    Showy
    Flower Bloom Time:
    Spring
    Flower Shape:
    Cup
    Flower Petals:
    4-5 petals/rays
    Flower Size:
    < 1 inch
    Flower Description:
    Yellow-green flowers on 1-1.5" raceme. Drupe.
  • Leaves:
    Woody Plant Leaf Characteristics:
    Deciduous
    Semi-evergreen
    Leaf Color:
    Gray/Silver
    Green
    Leaf Value To Gardener:
    Fragrant
    Showy
    Deciduous Leaf Fall Color:
    Orange
    Red/Burgundy
    Leaf Type:
    Simple
    Leaf Arrangement:
    Alternate
    Leaf Shape:
    Elliptical
    Oblong
    Obovate
    Leaf Margin:
    Entire
    Hairs Present:
    No
    Leaf Length:
    3-6 inches
    Leaf Width:
    1-3 inches
    Leaf Description:
    The apple-green leaves are few, and have a scaly, silvery underside and are often clustered at the ends of the branches. Oldest leaves turn brilliant orange in the fall. A banana-apple fragrance can be experienced when the leaves are crushed.
  • Bark:
    Bark Color:
    Dark Gray
    Light Gray
    Bark Description:
    Smooth, thin gray bark
  • Stem:
    Stem Is Aromatic:
    No
    Stem Description:
    Typically, a single trunk with multiple stems.
  • Landscape:
    Landscape Location:
    Naturalized Area
    Walkways
    Woodland
    Landscape Theme:
    Butterfly Garden
    Drought Tolerant Garden
    Native Garden
    Pollinator Garden
    Design Feature:
    Border
    Mass Planting
    Screen/Privacy
    Specimen
    Attracts:
    Butterflies
    Pollinators
    Resistance To Challenges:
    Deer
    Drought
    Dry Soil
    Rabbits