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Acalypha amentacea Roxb. ssp. wilkesiana (Müll. Arg.) Fosberg

Copperleaf, Jacob’s coat, copper leaf

KingdomPlantaePlants, but not fungi, lichens, or algae
SubkingdomTracheobiontaVascular plants—plants with a “circulatory system” for delivering water and nutrients
DivisionMagnoliophytaFlowering plants, also known as angiosperms
ClassMagnoliopsidaDicotyledons—plants with two initial seed leaves
SubclassRosidaeRoses, legumes, proteas, dogwoods, hydrangeas, mistletoes, euphorbias, grapes, many more
OrderMalpighialesA broad group encompassing 16,000 species
FamilyEuphorbiaceaeEuphorbia or spurge family
GenusAcalyphaCopperleaves or three-seeded mercuries; means “nettle”
SpeciesamentaceaMeans “narrow dangling flower”
ssp.wilkesianaNamed for Admiral Charles Wilkes, a South Pacific explorer

About plant names...

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 Skull & Crossbones 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.

Online References:

Forest and Kim Starr’s Starr Environmental site (great photos)

The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences

The Missouri Botanical Garden


Wikimedia Commons (photos)

Acalypha wilkesiana


Acalypha amentacea ssp. wilkesiana description by Thomas H. Kent, last updated 28 Aug 2021.

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Acalypha amentacea (copperleaf, Jacob’s coat, copper leaf)

1 · 8/31/2013 · Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, Richmond, Virginia
≈ 9 × 6" (22 × 15 cm)

Acalypha amentacea (copperleaf, Jacob’s coat, copper leaf)

2 · 2/26/2010 · San Diego Zoo, San Diego, Cali­fornia ID is uncertain

Acalypha amentacea (copperleaf, Jacob’s coat, copper leaf)

3 · 3/2/2001 · Kula Botanical Garden, Maui, Hawaii

Range: Zones 10b-11:

About this map...