Bocconia frutescens (Tree Poppy) - A large shrub or small tree growing 12 to 18 feet tall with odd wand-like smooth-barked stems holding oblong pinnately cleft gray-green leaves, hairy on the under surface, that are congested toward the tips of the branches. In late spring and early summer appear the small petal-less greenish-purple flowers in dense 8-24-inch-long panicles that are followed by gray fruit.
Grows in full sun or moderate shade and tolerant of most any soil. Can be irrigated regularly or given little or no supplemental watering in coastal gardens. Not stem hardy to more than a moderate frost with long duration temperatures much below freezing, but will resprout from base after freezing to the ground. The flowers are not showy but are attractive to bees and the bold foliage is very attractive and the plant useful for a tropical look in the background of the garden against finer-textured plants.
This widely adaptable plant is native to southern Mexico through Central America into South America and the West Indies where it grows in wet and dry forests on many different soil types. In Hawaii, where it was introduced in the 1920's, it has become an aggressive invasive weed, particularly on the big island (Hawaii) and on Maui but it has not proven weedy in our mediterranean climate. All parts of this plant are poisonous, and its orange latex sap has been used for medicinal purposes in its native range and is also used as a dye.
Carl Linnaeus named this genus in his Species Plantarum in 1753 to honor the Italian botanist Paolo Boccone (1633–1704). The specific epithet means "becoming shrubby" from the Latin word 'frutex' for "shrub. Other common names include plume poppy, tree celandine, parrotweed, sea oxeye daisy and in Jamaica it is wildly known as John Crow bush because it grows in the John Crow Mountains, so named for the Turkey Vulture, which is sometimes called John Crow or Carrion Crow. We first received this plant from Gary Hammer and have offered it at our nursery since 2002.
Information about Bocconia frutescens displayed on this page is based on our research about it conducted in our library and gathered from reliable online sources. We include observations made of this plant as it grows in our nursery gardens and in other gardens that we have visited, as well as how the crops have performed in containers in our own nursery field. We will also incorporate comments that we receive from others about this plant when we feel it adds information and particularly welcome hearing from anyone who has any additional cultural recommendations that would aid others in growing it.