Synadenium compactum var. rubrum (African Milk Bush) - A upright semi-evergreen to deciduous (in California) shrub that grows typically to 6 to 15 feet tall but in habitat to over 20 feet. It has thick 5-8 inch long leaves that can be entirely red or green, or a combination of both on the upper surface and purple-red beneath. Occasionally blooms with minute red flowers (bracts). Plant in full sun to light shade. Give occasional to little irrigation. It is frost tender but leaves re-emerge without stem damage after mild frosts and the plant can resprout from base if top is frozen at short duration temperatures much below 25 F. As with most plants in the Euphorbia family the sap is toxic but this plant produces a copious amount of sap or "milk" and care needs to be taken when cutting or working with the plant that it not be allowed to get in the eyes. It is native to rocky slopes in open bushland in the Kaivasha District in Kenya. It is also known as the "Purple Leaf Brown Jug Plant" or "Red Milk Bush" and is often confused in horticuluture with the larger and greener Synadenium grantii that also grows in Kenya but also in Uganda and further south. This description is based on our research and observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery, in the nursery garden and in other gardens that we have visited. We also try to incorporate comments received from others and appreciate getting feedback of any kind from those who have additional information about this plant, particularly if they disagree with what we have written or if they have additional cultural tips that would aid others in growing Synadenium compactum var. rubrum.
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