Malabar Chestnut, Seven Leaf Tree, Silver-leaved Mountain Gum
Questions We’re Often Asked: Money Plants
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An old saying has it that money doesn’t grow on trees. Perhaps not but there are ‘Money Trees’ and even ‘Money Plants’ aplenty to be discovered inside the house and in the garden . . .
In the past couple of decades, small trees with braided trunks have appeared in newly opened oriental establishments. The presence of these ‘Money Trees’ is reputed to bring financial success to the fledgling businesses. Strangely Pachira aquaticaalso known as ‘Malabar Chestnut’ or ‘Seven Leaf Tree,’ originates from Central and South America. There it may tower to 60-feet (18-metres), producing edible nuts that are eaten fresh, roasted or grated into flour. For years, it was a popular landscape tree in Japanese landscapes. Then in 1986 on the island nation of Taiwan, a truck driver grew several trees in a single container, braiding the trunks together into a ‘Money Plant’ symbolically associated with good financial fortune. It certainly was for Taiwan, where raising and shipping them is today a multimillion-dollar business.
Prior to this came Crassula ovata from South Africa. ‘Money Plant,’ ‘Jade Plant’, ‘Friendship Plant’, ‘Lucky Plant’ – it answers to all these names plus, for some obscure reason ‘Chinese Rubber Plant.’ One thing you can be sure of: any plant known by many names is bound to be popular. A succulent reaching to a metre or more in captivity, the secret to success is to allow the soil to dry out completely before watering. In full sun, the edges of the leaves become tinged an attractive red or orange. When really content, it will reward the doting owner with bursts of white or pink blooms.
Another plant associated with China, from southwest Yunnan Province, is Pilea peperomioides, the ‘Chinese Money Plant.’ A small plant with dark green, somewhat flesh leaves it is usually sold in four-inch (10-centimetre) pots. A fine candidate for the terrarium or dish garden, it has the intriguing alternate name of ‘Missionary Plant.’ First discovered by the notable botanic explorer George Forrest in 1906 and again in 1910 it was not until Norwegian missionary Agnar Espegren was escaping from China in 1945 and picked up cuttings on the way to India in 1946 and so to Scandinavia, that it caught on.
Although probably more familiar as ‘Pothos,’ Epipremnum aureum is also a ‘Money Plant.’ A vigorous vine, in the wild it may reach to 60-feet (20-metres), clambering over anything and everything. Highly invasive, another name, that of ‘Devil’s Ivy,’ can be more appropriate in south and southeastern Asian tropics where it smothers more desirable growth. In the house, however, it is noted for its ability to remove indoor pollutants although balanced against this benefit it is highly toxic to cats, dogs and children.
Less risky is another ‘Money Tree,’ Eucalyptus pulverulenta from New South Wales in Australia, known to subtropical landscapers as ‘Silver-leaved Mountain Gum’ while to florists it is their ‘Silver Dollar.’ They use the lightly scented blue-green foliage fresh or dried in bouquets.
Temperate zone flower gardens can be boosted with Lunaria annua (syn. L. biennis). Originating in Europe, it, too, is called ‘Money Plant’ – but its popularity is proven by the many alternate names. Among them are ‘Honesty,’ ‘Moonwort,’ ‘Satin Flower,’ and, again ‘Silver Dollar.’ Sweet smelling violet flowers top three-foot-tall stems in spring when sown the previous summer. Silvery, oval seed-bearing pods follow the blooms. These can be dried and used for winter bouquets. Scatter the seeds in sun or light shade for repeat performances.
The late Art Buckley recommended ‘Moneywort’ or ‘Creeping Jenny’ (Lysimachia nummularia) as the choice for planting where little else will grow, sun or deep shade. A prostrate, rapidly spreading perennial with cheerful yellow flowers throughout the growing season it may became invasive if not firmly controlled. It has been suggested as a lawn substitute or for trailing from window boxes and hanging baskets.