Leea coccinea ‘Rubra’ (West Indian Holly) Aka Red Leea, Leea guineense, and Hawaiian Holly, is an evergreen shrub that is native to Asia and tropical Africa, but has naturalized in Florida, Central and South America, as well as the Caribbean. It is an understory (planted underneath taller trees) species that grows in shady locations under the cover of taller trees. The genus was named by Linnaeus after James Lee, the Scottish nurseryman based in Hammersmith, London who introduced many new plant discoveries to England at the end of the 18th century. ‘Coccinea’ means ‘scarlet’.
Leea flowers are visited by a variety of potential insect pollinators, including flies, wasps, bees, butterflies, and beetles. Seeds and parts of plant are poisonous if ingested. Leea belongs to the Vitaceae family, the family of grapevines.
Outdoors it will grow to 6-20′ tall. Leaves 2- or 3-pinnate emerge light green but mature to a glossy dark green. Elliptic to lanceolate leaflets are 4-8″ long. Winter hardy to USDA Zones 10-11.
Tiny flowers (each to 1/8″ wide) appear in many-branched, domed cymes (to 8″ wide). Flowers are reddish-orange outside and a paler yellowish-orange inside. Flowers may bloom throughout the year in ideal growing conditions. Flowers are followed by rounded dark purple fruits (to 3/8″ diameter) which ripen to red.
Leea guineense G. Don [as Leea coccinea Planchon] Curtis’s Botanical Magazine, vol. 88 [ser. 3, vol. 18]: t. 5299 (1862) [W.H. Fitch]