The firecracker plant, Russelia equisetiformis, perfectly complements the many shades of green foliage where it is distinguished by its multitude of small bright orange-red flowers. With several medicinal uses beyond its aesthetics, it can only cope with warm climates.
Russelia is a genus named after Scottish naturalist Alexander Russel. Equisetifolia means “which looks like a horsetail”.
Description and flowering period
It is a shrub with a weeping habit reaching between 0.5 and 1.5 meter in height and spreading over 1 meter in width (up to 3 meters). Densely clumped, its thin arched stems are nearly leafless. Its small persistent lanceolate leaves are hidden at the base of its stems while on the upper parts of the stems, the leaves are replaced by small scales. It blooms in summer, the flowers are borne on loose panicles. They have a tiny dark green calyx and a bright red tubular corolla ending in 5 small lobes. Pollination is mainly undertaken by hummingbirds but also by butterflies. The fruits are small round capsules which split open when ripe.
It requires a rich, fresh yet well drained soil in a sunny location. The species is tolerant to sea-sprays, strong winds and droughts. It is hardy to -2°C.
- Medicinal: Extracts of the plant are used for their analgesic, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties. It is also used to treat diabetes.
It is very widely cultivated in tropical and subtropical gardens and has naturalised in many tropical countries.
Visible at: Val Rahmeh botanical garden – MNHN