Acalypha amentacea Roxb. ssp. wilkesiana (Müll. Arg.) Fosberg
Copperleaf, Jacob’s coat, copper leaf
Copper leaf is a fast-growing evergreen shrub, native to Fiji and other nearby islands in the South Pacific. It needs rich, moist, well-drained soil. In Florida, it has escaped cultivation in some areas, though it is not common; it is not established outside of Florida.
Identification: The unusual leaf coloration and restricted range in the United States are probably enough to distinguish copper leaf from other plants.
Plants: This shrub can reach 15' (4.6 m) in height. In photo 3, the variety is probably ‘Marginata,’ since its leaves are fringed in red.
Leaves: Leaves have distinct leaf coloration, described as a variegated bronze or coppery red to a muted red. Leaves are heart-shaped, and 4-8" (10-20 cm) long.
Flowers: Red, fuzzy catkins hang from leaf axils, and are 8-12" (20-30 cm) long.
Edibility: Poisonous All parts of copper leaf are highly toxic when ingested, and may cause rashes.
Medical: Recent research (2010) suggests that extracts from this plant are beneficial for the treatment of diabetes, and may lead to future treatments. Other studies suggest potential value for treatment of a fairly wide range of conditons.
Forest and Kim Starr’s Starr Environmental site (great photos)
Wikimedia Commons (photos)
Acalypha amentacea ssp. wilkesiana description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 28 Aug 2021.
Range: Zones 10b-11: