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It is an erect, evergreen subshrub growing to 1 m (3 ft 3 in) with glossy, wavy-margined leaves and fan-shaped flowers, which may appear at any time throughout the year. The flowers are unusually shaped with 3 to 5 asymmetrical petals. They grow from four-sided stalked spikes, and have a tube-like ¾ inch stalk. Flower colours range from the common orange to salmon-orange or apricot, coral to red, yellow and even turquoise.
Cultivation and uses
This plant requires a minimum temperature of 50 °F (10 °C), and in temperate regions is cultivated as a houseplant. It is usually grown in containers but can be attractive in beds as well. The flowers have no perfume but stay fresh for several days on the bush. A well-tended specimen will bloom continuously for years. It is propagated by seeds or cuttings.
The tiny flowers are often strung together into strands, sometimes along with white jasmine flowers and therefore in great demand for making garlands which are offered to temple deities or used to adorn women’s hair.
The common name "firecracker flower" refers to the seed pods, which are found after the flower has dried up, and tend to "explode" when near high humidity or rainfall. The "explosion" releases the seeds onto the ground, thereby creating new seedlings. It is popularly known as Kanakambaram in Tamil (கனகாம்பரம்), Malayalam and Telugu and Kanakambara in Kannada. In Maharashtra it is known as Aboli.
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