Codiaeum variegatum has become a well-known ornamental plant in Europe and North America and has long been culturally significant in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, for example as a boundary plant. This paper asks, firstly, how variations in foliage are classified, managed, and valued in one population (Nuaulu on the island of Seram, eastern Indonesia), and how this relates to the range of uses to which these variations are put. Secondly, the paper suggests that this particular case helps shed light on the importance of leaf variegation as an organoleptic quality in the context of biocultural evolution. It is noted that the features that evolved in its area of endemism are those making it attractive as an ornamental globally. While color variations in foliage combining genotypic cultivar differences, clonal differences, and age-dependent differences produce phenotypic instability and are a problem for ornamental plant producers in a commercial context, they are not a problem for Nuaulu.
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Vol. 41 • No. 2