Colin Mills, compiler of the Hortus Camdenensis, died in late November 2012 after a short illness. As he always considered the Hortus his legacy, it is his family's intention to keep the site running in perpetuity. It will not, however, be updated in the near future.

Graptophyllum pictum (L.) Griff.

Frost tender, sparsely branched, erect shrub with elliptic leaves, veined or marked yellow, or entirely suffused deep purple, and short racemes, to 8cm long, of crimson to purple flowers with inflated throats, to 8cm long, in summer.  To 2m.  [RHSE].

Horticultural & Botanical History

This plant was first botanically described by Linnaeus as Justicia picta in 1762 [Sp.Pl. ed.2, vol.1, p.21/1762]. It was placed in the genus Graptophyllum by Nees in 1830 as G. hortense [Wallich vol.3, p.102/1830] and correctly named G. pictum by William Griffith in 1854, the name by which it is usually known today  [Notulae ad Plantas Asiaticas vol.4, p.139/1854].

‘This elegant shrub [Justicia picta] is not very frequent in English Collections, but is one of the commonest of those cultivated in India, in which country it is universally found in Gardens, from the Islands of the Archipelago to the capitals of the kingdoms of the continent.  Its vernacular name is not mentioned by Dr. Roxburgh; and its native country is unknown.  Dr. Wallich informs us, that during his very extensive journeys in India he has never seen it except in Gardens; and that the natives call it Chinabacca and Chirhirri.  The variegation of the leaves may, like the red coals of a glowing fire, be easily fancied, by an ingenious observer, to resemble the features of a distorted human countenance, on which account the Caricature plant has become its name.  [BR f.1227/1829]. 

A very variable species, Curtis’s Botanical Magazine figures Justicia picta var. lurida-sanguinea: ‘The common variety was cultivated before the year 1780, by the late Dr. John Fothergill, in his garden at Upton.’  [BM t.1870/1816].  

History at Camden Park

‘Justicia picta’ was listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [T.609/1850].  Justicia picta was obtained from Loddiges’ Nursery, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in 1849.  [ML A1980-3].  ‘Justicia Careyana’ was listed only in the 1850 catalogue. Naturalised in Queensland.


Andrews’ Botanical Repository figures Justicia nitida which has been referred to Graptophyllum hortense Kuntze. [ABR pl.570/1809].

Justicia picta Noronha (1790) = Peristrophe salicifolia Hassk.

Published Feb 22, 2010 - 02:59 PM | Last updated Apr 21, 2011 - 03:20 PM

Figured are purple-suffused leaves and terminal raceme of pale crimson flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine BM t.1870, 1816.

Graptophyllum pictum (L.) Griff. | BM t.1870/1816 as Justicia picta lurida-sanguinea | BHL

Family Acanthaceae
Region of origin

New Guinea

  • Graptophyllum hortense Nees
  • Justicia picta L.
  • Justicia nitida Nees
  • Probably synonymous with Justicia careyana Roxb. 
Common Name

Caricature plant

Name in the Camden Park Record

Justicia picta

Justicia Careyana 

Confidence level high