I was shown this lovely stand of old-growth shrubs last weekend, at Silverleigh (near Acland).
As the photo shows, they were growing on a basalt scree-covered hillside. It was an eastern slope, which I suspect would be a favourite habitat, as this plant likes to be sheltered from wind and sun when it’s young.
Usually found on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, this aromatic, grey-foliaged plant is a cousin of the better-known silver croton, C. insularis.
Like that plant, its leaves have silver backs, which look lovely blowing in the wind. Also like the silver croton, each leaf turns a startling shade of orange before dying and hangs on for some time. The plant is ornamented with bright flecks of colour almost all year round.
This plant was in bud. Flowers and the fruits are inconspicuous, but much appreciated by wildlife - particularly birds, which eat the seeds.
The top photo illustrates the plant’s natural, unpruned shape, when grown in the open. I have never seen it used in a garden, but suspect that it would make a very good, waist-high hedging plant.
It is fast-growing, very drought hardy, and (considering its natural habitat), probably tolerates at least light frosts.
For more on Croton insularis, see articles July and Dec 2009.