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Duranta is a plant genus that is part of the Verbenaceae family. It is named after Castore Durantes, who was an Italian botanist. This genus contains over 30 species of shrubs that are native to the southern United States, parts of Central America, and parts of South America. Most of the shrubs in this genus are perennials that can survive in heavy soils and tolerate both sunny and shaded locations.
Gardeners choose plants within the Duranta genus for a number of reasons, but the characteristic which stands out is their remarkable ability to thrive in variable conditions. Most species within the genus will adapt to the climate. In warmer regions, a typical shrub or tree will grow 15-20 feet (4.5-6.1 m) in height, while in regions with a harsher winter, the shrub may grow either as an annual or a perennial, reaching a height of 6-8 feet (1.8-2.4 m). In regions that are at or below USDA zone eight, the shrubs are usually grown as summer annuals.
Duranta species are easy to maintain; all they require is regular watering and occasional pruning. Most species within this genus do not require fertilizers. Another appealing factor regarding this genus is the ornamental appearance of the shrubs. Most species have a characteristic dark blue strip on each flower petal. Duranta erecta is a popular species that has five light blue to purple petals on each tubular flower. Hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the flowers, which can create a picturesque scene. The shrub also develops yellow berries that hang in bunches.
There are several uses for shrubs in this genus. Usually, they are grown as a street tree or as a hedge, depending on the species. Some species are ideal for empty spaces in a garden or along walls. Other species are ideal for planters situated on patios.
The primary concern with plants in the Duranta genus is their susceptibility to insect damage. Caterpillars, scales, and nematodes feed on the leaves and roots of the shrub. Scales are very small insects that usually stay in one spot, which prevents gardeners from noticing them. Common signs of infestation include yellowing of leaves and twig dieback. Nematodes are round worms that are located in the soil and feed on the roots of the shrub.
Another concern with some of the species in this genus is the toxicity of the fruits. Duranta erecta in particular produces poisonous fruits. The shrub shouldn't be planted in areas that are frequented by children.
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