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12 Jul 2018

Acer (Aceraceae); Acero

These are deciduous trees, whose sizes vary from those of a shrub (Acer palmatum), to those of large trees, such as the Acer pseudoplatanus. The seeds are winged and united in pairs. The gems are opposite and this characteristic is what differentiates substantially, as regards the morphology, these plants from those belonging to the genus Platanus. The flowers are very inconspicuous. Depending on the circumstances, the A. are cultivated for timber (in many precious species), for the foliage that in autumn is often covered with beautiful colors, and sometimes for the bark, which reminds the skin of a snake.

The characteristic leaves of the Acer
The characteristic leaves of the Acer

Cultivated species:

the Aceraceae family finds its maximum diffusion in North America, where there is a large number of species.  In Italy, six Acer live in the spontaneous state: A. campestre, A. lobelii, A. monspessulanum, A. opalus, A. platanoides and Acer pseudoplatanus. These are distinguished from each other, for the leaves that, in our species, are always palmata-lobed, for the size, for the habit and also for the habitat. It is particularly suitable for this use because it bears well the pruning, very heavy, which is subjected to its foliage not to overshadow the screw. It is a plant of mediocre dimensions, which, in general, is not used by us for ornamental purposes. It is a large tree, with fine wood, which prefers fresh areas; It has no practical importance from an ornamental point of view, while it has a certain value in the field of silviculture due to the characteristics of the rather precious wood; there. platanoides (curly maple) is a typical species of continental cold climates, reaching the Scandinavian peninsula to the north. It is a beautiful tree, with leaves of a beautiful green 5-lobed, ending in characteristically sharp points. It is used as an ornamental plant, for the elegant posture and for the beautiful color that the leaves take before falling in autumn; A. pseudo-platanus (mountain maple) is the largest Italian A., reaching in some cases even 40 meters in height. It is more southern than the previous one. In our country vegetates, as the Italian name clearly says, in the mountainous areas and mostly in the beech woods. It is widely used for ornamental purposes, both in the gardens, in the parks, and in the trees of the cities, with the exception of those with a distinctly Mediterranean climate. Today it is not common to find large A. in the woods, because the wood, very valuable, has been intensely exploited and those few remaining specimens are worthy of the maximum protection. Among the species introduced in Italy for ornamental purposes, especially the A. negundo, originating in the eastern part of North America, with leaves characteristically composed of five leaflets. We often use varieties with elegantly variegated leaves. A is also often used. saccharinum, also native to the eastern part of North America, much appreciated for the leaves elegantly engraved, silvered on the lower page and which, in autumn, take on a beautiful yellow color.

Cultivation of Acer:

the most valuable A. prefer fresh, fertile and deep soils, where they take on a good bearing and a straight and cylindrical stem. For multiplication, it is preferable to sow in seedbeds, where the plans remain two years.

11 Jul 2018

Acanthus (Acanthaceae)

The name derives from the Greek òkanthos «acanthus». The genus includes elegant rustic perennials, known since the time of the Greeks and Romans, who, in architecture, used the shape of the leaves for the Corinthian capital, more precisely for two varieties of it: the Greek that used the leaf of the Acanthus spinosus, originally from Greece and italic, in which the A.’s leaf was represented. monis. All the Acanthus form large clumps of long, upright and erect leaves, among which the inflorescences emerge from the labiati flowers, emerging from often thorny bracts; the roots are strong, fleshy and firmly clinging to the ground.

The elegant stylized leaves of the Acanthus
The elegant stylized leaves of the Acanthus

Cultivated species of Acanthus:

Acanthus longifolius (cm 90 – m 1,20), with violet flowers, blooms in June; A. monis, the best known, unarmed, with violet-pink flowers and long leaves up to 60 cm, goes to rest after the summer bloom and grows again in autumn; A. spinosus, with deeply lacerated thorny leaves, purple, green and white flowers in July and August.


excellent as an isolated specimen, it can also be planted in groups, particularly along old walls or in the shade of trees. The foliage of the young plants is less lacinated and toothed than in adults and so is also that coming from young plants root cuttings. It needs rich, well-drained soil and half-shade, except in particularly cool locations. It can be reproduced by seed in spring or multiply by root cutting in winter and spring and by division in autumn or spring.

09 Jul 2018

Acalypha (Euphorbiaceae)

The name derives from the Greek akalefe given by Hippocrates to the Nettle. The genus includes tropical evergreen plants that, with due precaution, can also be used in the apartment and, in the summer, in the open air; the greatest difficulty encountered in their cultivation in an apartment is the need to keep them well ventilated, without the temperature dipping below 15 ° C. All can reach a good height and lignify. In the wild they are perennial, but in cultivation, they are usually multiplied annually by cuttings because the young plants are more attractive.

the long red inflorescences of the Acalypha
The long red inflorescences of the Acalypha

Cultivated species of Acalypha:

Acalypha hispida (sin sanderi), from India, the only species that is cultivated for its flowers, consisting of long, red-alive pendulous inflorescences that are born at the axis of the obovate, green and pubescent leaves. There are a variety with pinkish white inflorescences and hybrids with Acalypha godseffiana which have yellow inflorescences and variegated leaves; none of these species or varieties bears the sun, even though it requires great luminosity; Acalypha godseffiana, originally from New Guinea, has leaves margined in creamy yellow; Acalypha wilkesiana, from Polynesia, and his var. musaica have mottled leaves in red, orange and pink; all have inconspicuous inflorescences, require strong brightness and in places with a rather humid climate they also bear the full sun.


the cuttings taken at the end of the winter will coalesce with a temperature of about 20 ° C in a humid atmosphere, if necessary under glass. The soil for repotting (when they have well rooted) can be formed of fibrous earth, earth of leaves, peat, and sand; care should be taken to keep it fresh and humid without excess water which may suffocate the roots, especially after flowering.

The Acanthus, already known by the Greeks and Romans for the particular shape of its leaves, was used by them in architecture as a model for the decorations of the Corinthian capital. The idea of representing the columns in the form of fuze with a leafy crowning, dates back to the ancient Egyptians, who created the lentiform, papyriform and palmform capitals.

Also read: Acacia (Leguminosae).

07 Jul 2018

Acacia (Leguminosae)

The name derives from the Greek akakía «acacia». This common name is erroneously applied to Robinia (see), as well as the Acaia is called Mimosa, which, in botany, is another genus of the same family; A. farnesiana is also called gaggia. It is a genus composed of about 500 species of shrubs or small flowering trees, of which those cultivated for ornamentation are mostly Australian, while part of the African ones have a certain economic importance because they exude a resin from which the arabic gum is extracted. Of varying height and posture, they also have variety characteristics in the foliage: many species have bipinnate leaves, while most Australian species have petioles enlarged to form leaf laminae (phyllodes). The flowers are yellow, formed by globular flower heads that appear feathery because of the numerous colored stamens and can be isolated or grouped in long and pendulous racemes. The seeds are contained in pods as in all Leguminosae.

Acacia Clair de lune mistakenly called Mimosa
Acacia Clair de lune mistakenly called Mimosa

Cultivated species Acacia:

A. bayleyana (m 4,50-6), gray-green foliage, compound leaves (up to 20 pairs of leaflets), longer racemes of leaves with showy golden-yellow flowers, blooms since January in mild climate; A. decurrens variety dealbata (m 15), rustic, arborescent, pale or silver-gray leaves formed by 30-40 pairs of leaflets, long pale-yellow racemes also with 30 flowers; many varieties and hybrids have been derived, including A. hanburyana; A. howittii known as “clair de lune” due to the pale yellow of its flowers; A. longifolia floribunda variety, a shrub that bears the foliage mainly at the tip of the branches, linear phyllodes (about 6 cm), acuminates, yellow-live flowers in small spikes and blooms in spring; A. melanoxylon, of considerable development, which with its strong roots helps to curb sandy soils and is also used for its wood; Acacia poda-lyriifolia (about 4 m), shrub with ovate and pubescent fillias and simple racemes but with numerous flower heads, which blooms in winter; A. retinodes, a small tree with lanceolate phyllodes, racemes composed of more than 30 lemon-yellow flowers, which blooms all year round and, since it bears the calcareous soil, is often used as a rootstock for more delicate species; Acacia saligna bears more than the others the salty winds and the proximity of the sea; it is also present in Italy.


acid and very permeable soil, sunny position, sheltered from the wind, minimum temperatures of 7-13 °C, lower for short periods. Pruning is carried out after flowering or directly, cutting off the flowering branches, at the end of winter or spring, trying to contain the plants in the desired height and shape. They reproduce by seed in spring or multiply by semi-hard wood cuttings at the beginning of the summer in multiplication tanks; the grafts are also performed at the beginning of the summer, almost always on A. retinodes, sometimes on A. longifolia.

05 Jul 2018

Abutilon (Malvaceae)

The name comes from the Arabic abutilun, a species of mallow. Semi-rustic shrubs to be cultivated in greenhouses, in cold-climate countries or, except for the most delicate, outdoors where the climate is mild. The flowering of some species is summer and autumnal, of others it lasts practically all the year. The flowers, variously colored, are mostly pendulous, with 5 petals and a more or less long goblet; the leaves of various shapes, often lobed, in some species are variegated.

A variety of Abutilon with beautiful red bell flowers
A variety of Abutilon with beautiful red bell flowers

Cultivated species: most of the cultivated plants are hybrids, derived mainly from A. darwinii (orange veined red flowers), A. striatum and A. venosum. Remarkable is the thompsonii variety of A. striatum, with orange-salmon flowers and yellow marbled leaves and A. «Savitzii», low and with very variegated white leaves in an irregular way, suitable for growing in pots. A. megapotamicum, which comes from Brazil, is an evergreen that can grow up to 2.50 m in the open ground; from its arched branches hang the flowers from the long red goblet, the yellow petals and the brown anthers; the variegated shape is more delicate and, grown in pot, reaches only 50 cm in height. Abutilon vitifolium has blue flowers, reaches 3-7 m in height and there is a var. album with pure white flowers.

Cultivation Abutilon:

the A. would require a minimum temperature of 7-10 ° C, but if repaired, they can withstand even lower temperatures. The soil must be rich but made well permeable with the addition of sand. For the cultivation of the pot it is advisable to use sandy soil and earth of leaves. They reproduce by seed in spring, or multiply by cuttings; this is advisable when you want to keep a certain variety, and it becomes absolutely necessary when it comes to variegated varieties. The cuttings, taken in first-vera, will easily root in a box with sandy soil, or in a humid environment at a temperature of 18 ° C.