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What is Leea?

By Sonal Panse
Updated May 16, 2024
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Leea is a plant genus of the Leeaceae family which includes 70 types of plants. The genus, which is named after the Scottish horticulturist James Lee, can be found in the mild climate regions of Asia, Oceania and Africa. Two species of this genus, Leea coccinea and Leea guineensis, are popular as evergreen garden plants.

The coccinea variety, which is commonly known as Rubra or Red Leea, generally grows to be around five feet (1.5 m) to eight feet (2.4 m) tall. It has glossy burgundy leaves and sharp spines. The plant produces tiny pink, white, or near-white flowers in the spring. The flowers are pollinated by bees, wasps, and other insects, and purple berries are produced in the fall.

The Rubra plant can be grown in partial shade as well as in full sun. The plant should be watered daily, and during hot weather spells it is necessary to ensure that the top soil remains moist or at least does not dry out completely. The plant will do well if it is fertilized once or twice a month.

Leea is often kept as a houseplant, but must treated with particular caution. The plant is poisonous if ingested, the toxic plant leaves and the berries can cause skin irritations, and the sharp spines can cause injury. It is advisable to wear gloves when handling this plant, and to keep it in an area not easily accessed by pets and young children.

Leea guineensis can attain heights of 17 feet (5.1816 m) or more. It has a dark green foliage, with new leaves being of a paler green shade; the contrast between the green shades can look very attractive. The plant may need to be pruned to promote a thicker growth of the foliage, or to keep it at a manageable height, and also requires frequent watering and twice a month fertilizing. This plant can generally flower throughout the year, and the types of flowers produced occur in branched cymes; a cyme is a flower arrangement that consists of several small blossom-carrying stalks that arise from a single main stalk.

The Leea plants can be propagated by seed or by stem cuttings. New seedlings from fallen seeds can regularly crop up around the tree, and, unless new plants are desired, it will be best to remove seeds before they germinate. Both the coccinea and guineensis plant varieties are generally hardy, but may need to be sprayed with soapy water from time to time to ward off attacks from bugs, mites and other pests.

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