Identification: unusual house plant identification

Discussion in 'Indoor and Greenhouse Plants' started by ClareAverill, Jan 4, 2015.

  1. ClareAverill

    ClareAverill Member

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    Dear all,

    Years ago I owned a house plant whose leaves appeared to be truly asymmetric. They looked more like some types of brown algae than like any other leaf I've ever seen. The closest I came to finding something with my plant's leaf shape was in photos I came across for Begonia spp. (bipinnatifida, serratipetala, or partita)

    But it isn't a Begonia. Begonia leaves are too symmetrical and the tapering too uniform. The leaves on my plant were glabrous with red and green variegation, and the leaf tips were rather wildly lobed and asymmetric. The "deepness" of the lobes indenture, and the number of growing "nodes" within the leaf lobes (not sure if this is correct terminology), was actually asymmetric -- not just alternating or oblique. It was as if the growing pattern were not obeying the laws for fractal geometry that seem to govern every other plant I've seen.

    We had it when we were in California, although I doubt it was a native, and it grew to be about two feet tall (with mature looking leaf sizes ranging from about 2-4" in length) and was susceptible to white fly (we struggled with that for a long time but finally got rid of it) but I suppose that doesn't tell you much. The plant was lost in a move, so I don't know how long they live, but it was a fantastically charismatic house plant.

    If anyone can direct me to other possibilities aside from those Begonias, I'd much appreciate any ideas for this continuing search. If I do identify the plant, I'll be sure to post here again.

    Thank you!
     
  2. togata57

    togata57 Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Welcome to the Forum, fellow Buckeye!

    Hmm! Intriguing.
    Croton?
     
  3. ClareAverill

    ClareAverill Member

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    Thank you for the welcome!

    No, it was not Croton. I see the Crotons with "violin" shaped leaves, but compared with my plant, those leaves are (essentially) symmetrical, the lobes along the margin are shallower, and there are only two or three lobes/side.

    The shape of the leaves (although not the coloration, which was more like your Croton- a red/green version) looked a little bit like this tree leaf: http://forestry.sfasu.edu/faculty/s...h_pages/leaflobing_incised/queralba_leaf2.jpg
    But that of course, is a tree, and I didn't think my plant was a tree (although it could have been I suppose). Also, my plant was much more asymmetric - really unpredictably so. Each leaf was noticeably different from the next.

    When I can, I will scan a drawing I made of the leaves. Hopefully there is an answer out there somewhere!
     
  4. ClareAverill

    ClareAverill Member

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    PS - actually this picture of Japanese maple: Acer palmatum 'Marlo' comes pretty close. If only the leaves were distinct instead of palmate, we'd have our leaf shape.
     
  5. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    How about a cultivar of Plectranthus scutellarioides (syn. Solenostemon scutellarioides), something like:Common name: Coleus
     
  6. togata57

    togata57 Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    Alternathera, Party-Time Plant?
     
  7. ClareAverill

    ClareAverill Member

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    @junglekeeper - your picture number 2 comes remarkably close to the leaf shape! Also, looking at the growing habit of the plant in the pot it is very close. Looking at the zoom view of the leaves though, I still see that soft, slightly fuzzy leaf associated with coleus.

    In contrast our mystery plant leaves were firm - almost sclerophyllous - and the main stems remained flexible but tended toward woodiness. A few other things are different - my plant never had any flowers and the color is also different (green was lighter & red was more like a new eucalyptus leaf).

    However, color and the absence of flowers probably aren't good ways to identify a plant. I see another coleus 'Snazzy' that is light green and yellow. The interesting thing about the plant in the Snazzy link is that it appears that the leaves are not so soft and not fuzzy. I may have to order one and see if it is the same plant (or at least the same tribe)!

    I also found a study in which scientists infected several plants including solenostemon scutellarioides, with mealybugs, and tried different treatments to get rid of the mealybugs (nothing worked, btw!). After seeing a close up photo of them, it was definitely mealybugs that were on my plant for so long.

    Thank you and also to everyone! What a good forum.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2015
  8. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    If the leaves are smooth then it's back to a Codiaeum variegatum cultivar, something like this.
     
  9. ClareAverill

    ClareAverill Member

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    Really, no chance for smooth leaves with Plectranthus scutellarioides? It just doesn't feel like a Codiaeum variegatum cultivar...
     
  10. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    My bad. I jumped to a premature conclusion. Apparently not all coleus leaves are hairy, according to the plant description in my book. The croton with oak-leaf shaped leaves seemed like a possibility. Is it not the right appearance?
     
  11. ClareAverill

    ClareAverill Member

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    Hi Junglekeeper! It is possible it was a cultivar of
    solenostemon scutellarioides called Merlin’s magic... I’m going to order one and find out for sure. I just found an old pressed leaf from my plant and am again inspired
     

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  12. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Three years going on four, I applaud your perseverance in seeking out this plant. It may be difficult to find an exact replacement not knowing the plant's original name given the large number of cultivars in existence, of which many are similar in appearance. Good luck nevertheless. Please keep us posted on your progress.
     
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  13. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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  14. thanrose

    thanrose Active Member 10 Years

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    Since there is such variability in coleus leaves, I'd suggest looking at the venation. Averill's sample of dried leaf has palmate venation, while coleus will typically have a pinnate arrangement. This feature may not be all that indicative but it doesn't look right to me.

    Something else of note that may not help is that coleus will have square stems. While older coleus may grow on and on and the lower stem turn brownish and scaley, the angularity is still pretty evident. I don't recall keeping any past four years or so, but that's an extremely long time for appeal. I did it for the cuttings. Other Plectranthus spp. would last longer as with P. verticillatus grown as a trailing house plant. We know it's not that one for certain, but it's an example of variability in the genus.

    How Averill's sample matches known coleus is the leaf shape, the described colors and the lamina looking so friable and thin. Any flowers noted will look like the usual coleus or mint raceme of blue to purple tiny florets. Someone else may know if the venation is an important detail.
     

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