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The Daily Bucket is a place where we can post and exchange our observations about the natural happenings in our neighborhoods. Birds, bugs, blossoms and more - each notation is a record that we can refer to in the future as we try to understand the natural patterns that are unwinding around us.
In one of our Daily Bucket discussions earlier this year, I mentioned the Alabama Croton (Croton alabamensis).  When I moved into my house more than a decade ago, the yard had plants that are typically found around homes in the Southeast.  Many were vigorous invasives, including Chinese privet, English ivy, and wisteria native to Asia.  I've made an effort to replace those plants with natives.  A few years ago, I went to a nearby nursery that specialized in native plants.  One specimen that I brought home was the Alabama croton.  I literally knew nothing about it; I simply planted it in a flower bed near one corner of the house, and watched it grow.

Alabama croton is native to a mere handful of counties in Alabama, and one county in Tennessee.  A subspecies is found in Texas.  According to one source, the subspecies known as Texabama croton escaped detection until 1989, which makes me wonder which rare or unknown species I might have walked past during my years of wandering in the forests of this country!

Here are some pictures of the croton that I planted, after about five growing seasons.  The croton is wider than it is tall, making it difficult to photograph against the backdrop of nearby plants.  Having a better camera would help, too.

Alabama croton (Croton alabamensis)
Note the orange leaves.  Each fall, the plant sheds a previous year's growth.  The colorful leaves persist for several weeks before finally dropping.  Even now, in late December, some of the colorful leaves are still hanging on.
Alabama croton (Croton alabamensis)
Alabama croton (Croton alabamensis)
The silvery underside of the leaf contrasts sharply with the shiny upper side.
Alabama croton (Croton alabamensis)
Last winter, I discovered a new plant growing underneath the parent.  Whether it originated from seed or from layering, I don't know.  I moved it to another flower bed, and it proved easy to transplant.  After a year of growth in its new location, it looks like this:
Alabama croton (Croton alabamensis)
Here are some resources for more information, and images, of the Alabama and Texabama crotons.

Wildflower Center

University of Tennessee Herbarium

NC State University

Center for Plant Conservation

Today's Bucket notes: Macon, Georgia, 50 degrees with steady rain and occasional thunder.  Unsettled weather is expected through Wednesday night, including a chance for severe storms on Christmas Day.

What's happening in your neck of the woods today?  Expecting a white Christmas where you live or travel?  

Merry Christmas to all, or in the spirit of the War on Christmas, Happy Holidays!

Originally posted to Backyard Science on Mon Dec 24, 2012 at 09:50 AM PST.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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