Acalypha chamaedrifolia

red-hot cat's tail


Acalypha chamaedrifolia

(Lam.) Müll. Arg. 1866

pronounced: ak-uh-LY-fuh kam-ee-dry-FOH-lee-uh

(Euphorbiaceae — the spurge family)

common names: red-hot cat's tail, strawberry firetail, strawberry foxtail

Acalypha is derived from the Greek ακαληφη (akaléphé), a nettle; chamaedrifolia means ‘having leaves like chamaedrys’ (χαμαιδρυς), an old name for Germander, the Dwarf Oak. The ‘tail’ part of all the common names is obvious. The ‘strawberry’ part is to do with the appearance of the leaves.

It is quite hard to believe that this pretty little plant with its fuzzy flowers is so closely related to Acalypha wilkesiana! Acalyphas are nowadays often regarded as old-fashioned plants, but I am glad to say that we still have plenty of them here on Magnetic Island, and Brisbane’s Roma Street Parklands has one of the largest collections of them in the world. There are more than 400 species in the genus, ranging from ground covers to large shrubs.

This is a small version of the common Cat’s Tail or Chenille Plant, Acalypha hispida. It is a native of India, Sri Lanka and Malaysia, and thrives in monsoonal conditions – a warm spot with plenty of water, a good misting every now and again in dry conditions. The tassel-like flowers do, however, like to be protected from strong winds. It is, given the chance, a trailing plant, a perennial with a woody base, 15 – 30 cm tall, with small green leaves 1 – 5 cm long. The furry red cat-tail-like blossoms are very ornate, and feel furry as well as appearing so.

The plant propagates from cuttings that include a few nodes. The recommended routine is to remove all the leaves except one at the tip, and plant leaving that leaf exposed. Roots should shoot from each of the buried nodes, so long as they are in contact with moist soil.

Photographs taken 2009, Picnic Bay
Page last updated 24th September 2018