Acalypha californica Benth.

California Copperleaf
Euphorbiaceae (Spurge Family)


California copperleaf is an interesting member of the Euphorbiaceae, and is the only species of its genus in California.  I have only seen it once before at the UC Riverside Botanic Garden.  It bears a certain resemblance to its close relative, Bernardia, and may be found in the Peninsular Range of San Diego County and the western Colorado Desert.  It is a slender-branched monoecious shrub growing 2'-4' tall with hairy stems and unisexual flowers.  The alternate leaves are 3/8"-3/4" long, glandular-pubescent, broadly ovate and ± crenate-dentate. The flowers are in spikes, axillary or terminal. The tiny apetalous staminate flowers are in peduncled catkin-like inflorescences with minute bracts and each has a four-parted calyx, while the pistillate flowers are borne on very short spikes or in clusters of 1-several at the base of the staminate spikes. They have leaf-like toothed bracts which form a little glandular-margined cup (as shown in the third picture) and which enclose the three sepals and the ovary with its three deeply-cut reddish styles. Copperleaf is a locally frequent species on dry rocky slopes and in chaparral to about 4000', blooming from January to June. Acalypha is a mostly tropical genus with many species having a reddish-coppery leaf color, and the common name of our species probably derives from that. These photographs (except for the first) were taken in late November at the Sycamore Canyon Preserve near Poway in San Diego Co.  

Click here for Latin name derivations: 1) Acalypha 2) californica.
Pronunciation: ak-al-IF-a ka-li-FOR-ni-ka.
Click here for Botanical Term Meanings.