Codiaeum variegatum – or the croton plant – is a single species within the small codiaeum genus, and belongs to the euphorbiaceae family. This species, which is sometimes known as the garden croton, is sometimes confused with large croton genus that belongs to the same clan. Native to areas of Indonesia, India, Malaysia and Sri Lanka, these colorful evergreen shrubs grow their best in shifting sunlight and rich, acidic soil. This plant is best known for the variety of colors and shapes of its foliage, which can range from deep green and broad to a light, slender-shaped red. They may also appear in a golden yellow, orange, or dark purple; however, some varieties may be variegated or even change hue over time. These plants also contain long, dioecious racemes of inflorescences – the female blossoms being yellow and without petals, while the males have five petals, several stamens and are a bright white color.
Because of its general hardiness and ease of care, the croton plant has become one of the most well loved houseplants available. This plant is so loved, in fact, that a non-profit organization called The Croton Society holds a number of seminars, meetings and even field trips. These well-planned events are done in the hopes of educating the public about this shrub, and helping fellow gardeners grow, breed and improve upon the species. Aside from being a uniquely colorful houseplant, crotons are also thought to have some potent medicinal qualities. Although these plants are considered toxic, if ingested in small quantities while under the supervision of a qualified professional, they are said to contain a host of promising actions – from anti-fungal to purgative, antioxidant to sedative. Some studies have suggested that the croton may also be useful as an anti-amoebic, and may also help in fending off the flu virus. Traditional folk medicine in the Philippines states that the freeze-dried foliage of the croton plant can make for an excellent curative for stomach upsets; while in Vanuatu, fresh leaves are often chewed to help treat amenorrhea.
Although the croton plant in and of itself does not contain any specific symbolism, it is not hard to associate it with strength and a unique, ever-changing beauty. As a gift, these plants are frequently given to new home owners – usually as a welcome present. However, they may also be presented to someone with something of a black thumb, as these shrubs are not only lovely, but very easy to care for.