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It is a semi-woody, sprawling shrub sometimes up to 3 m tall. Its stems are shiny green with speckles, and a pair of spines at the leaf's angles.
It grows in mangrove forest, pure freshwater or waterlogged areas, and on dry land.
Acanthus montanus, also known as African mountain acanthus, False Thistle, Bear's breech, Mountain Thistle, and Alligator Plant, is a thinly branched unusual perennial with interesting foliage, basal clusters of oblong to lance-shaped glossy, dark green leaves reaching up to 12 inches long. The leaves have silver marks and wavy margins. It produces showy pink flowers in the summer to fall. It is said it is cold hardy to zone 9. The plant looks better in filtered light.
Several species, especially A. balcanicus, A. spinosus and A. mollis, are grown as ornamental plants.
From midsummer through frost, flame acanthus is covered with long, slender, red or orange blooms that hummingbirds love. It is a drought tolerant, heat-loving small shrub that works as well in the perennial border as it does as an informal hedge or speciman plant. It makes an interesting winter and early spring accent. Flame acanthus is late to come out in the spring, and benefits from periodic shearing or even severe cutting back in early spring. It is a good choice for sites with poor soils and reflected heat - although supplemental water in dry summer months will encourage flowering. It is hardy throughout zone 8, and root hardy to zone 7.
Yellow flowers emerge out of long orange stalks in the fall time. Pretty and unusual! A tall, shrubby perennial with very long (over 15″) terminal inflorescences that are very unique and showy, with yellow flowers protruding from orange calyces in succession over many days. The leaves can get at least 14″ long, and in bright light the midvein and petiole can take on a reddish hue. Grows nicely in full sun in south Florida, but it will also tolerate quite shady conditions. It can get leggy and is best pruned regularly to help maintain a branching, dense form - give it a good trim around July. It is otherwise a very easy, undemanding and rewarding plant.
Aphelandra scabra is a shrub species that ranges from Southern Mexico to Northern South America and the West Indies. It is found mainly in seasonally dry forests along the Northern Pacific slope but it can also be found in some moist to wet forests. A. scabra is normally around 5 ft tall but it can grow taller. The leaves are simple, oppositely arranged on the stalk, and they are elliptical and entire with smooth or wavy margins.
The flowers of this plant can be red, pink, or purple red, up to 2 inch long, and tubular. They are 2-lipped, fuzzy and they bloom for one day before wilting. The A. scabra inflorescence is candle-like and the prepubescent flower spikes can grow up to 6 inch in height. The inflorescence has overlapping green bracts that are tinged with yellow and orange and they have extrafloral nectaries. Each day only one or two flowers open along the inflorescence to prevent self-pollination. The flowers have four fertile stamens and a slender stigma that is tucked into the upper lip of the flower. The flowers are hummingbird pollinated and the species protects its nectar behind a petal lip. When a visiting hummingbird arrives to feed on the nectar, the petal lip releases pollen down onto the head of the bird and it is carried away to pollinate another plant. The seed capsules are club-shaped,1 inch long capsules, and they contain four dark brown seeds. The seeds are flattened and irregular and they are dispersed ballistically, meaning they "explode". The fruit seed capsule splits along the sutures, which allow the fruit wall to change its shape rapidly and throw the seeds short distances.
The genus Aphelandra has about 200 species of shrubs or herbs native to tropical America. The name is from Greek apheles, solitary, and aner, a male, referring to the single-celled anthers. A very tropical looking tender perennial shrub, up to 10 feet tall (3 m), or more. The rose-red tubular flowers are borne in orange-red bracts on 8 inch long spikes - very unusual color match. The showy spikes are borne terminally, many together. Can be grown outdoors in warm climates. Fleshy leaves get cold damaged with temperatures 40-45F, but the plant recovers easily.
This is a rare hybrid possibly with A. scabra (panamensis) that has bright red flowers, quite unique flowering plant from S America. Like all aphelandras, it has showy flowers that are loved by hummingbirds. The flower up to 2 inch long, tubular. They are 2-lipped, fuzzy and they bloom for one day before wilting. Inflorescence is candle-like and the prepubescent flower spikes can grow up to 6 inch in height. The inflorescence has overlapping green bracts that are tinged with yellow and orange and they have extrafloral nectaries. Each day only one or two flowers open along the inflorescence to prevent self-pollination.
It is a great addition to a collectible tropical butterfly garden. Can grow into 4-5" tall bushy specimen. Blooms sporadically during warm season. Tolerates both full sun or filtered light.