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Cuphea ignea A. DC.

Family Name: Lythraceae
Synonyms: Cuphea platycentra
Common Name: Mexican Cigar Flower, Firecracker Plant, Cigar Flower, Cigarette Plant, Red-white-and-blue Flower, 雪茄花
Full Sun: 6-8h Semi-Shade Moderate Water Bird-Attracting Butterfly Food Plant Ornamental Flowers Woody

Name

Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Synonyms
Common Names
Comments

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Shrub (Woody)
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Rounded
Maximum Height 0.7 m to 0.9 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 0.7 m to 0.9 m

Biogeography

Native Distribution Mexico
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Exotic

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Low woody shrub, up to 0.9 m tall. Densely-branched, with compact rounded form. 
Foliage Leaves small, lanced-shaped, densely arranged in opposite pairs or whorls around stems. 
Stems Stems thin and somewhat brittle; young stems reddish. 
Flowers Flowers small (2.5cm long), produced singly from leaf axils, no petals, colourful tubular parts are actually orange-red calyxes (fused sepals), longitudinally grooved, with white and purple-blue tips, and basal hypanthium (rounded sac-like protuberance at base). Rich source of nectar, attract hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and ants. 
Fruits Fruits are papery explosive capsules containing tiny dark brown seeds.
Cultivation Likes fertile well-drained soils. Tip-prune regularly to maintain shape. If base gets bare, plant may be hard-pruned to encourage new growth. Leggy base may be hidden by planting shorter companion plants in front, eg. Cuphea hyssopifolia (False Heather). Propagate by tip-cuttings or seeds -- scatter on a layer of compost or vermiculture, and expose to light, germination occurs in 1 - 3 weeks.
Etymology Genus epithet 'Cuphea' means 'curved', referring to the shape of seed capsules. Species epithet 'ignea' means 'glowing red' or 'on fire', a reference to the colourful flowers which resemble small burning cigars or firecrackers.
Ethnobotanical Uses [Others]: Plant produces fatty acids similar to that derived from oil palm kernel -- a main ingredient used in soaps and shampoos. Could be a potential source of oils for industrial use.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping Suitable as free-flowering ornamental in the foreground of flower borders, or as container plant in small spaces (eg. sunny balconies and patios). 
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Easy to Grow, Fertile Loamy Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Acidic (low pH) Soils, Alkaline high pH Soils
Landscape Uses Container Planting, General, Flowerbed / Border
Thematic Landscaping Butterfly Garden, Naturalistic Garden
Usage Hazard - Cons Weak Branches
Plant & Rootzone Preference or Tolerance Remarks pH 5.6 - 8.5

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting (Flowers), Butterfly Food Plant (Flower Nectar)
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Ant, Beetle, Fly, Thrip, Wasp), Insects (Butterfly, Moth), Insects (Bee))
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Explosive Dehiscence)
Species record last updated on: 14 October 2021.
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