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.

Heliotropium arborescens L.

Half hardy, bushy, short-lived shrub, often grown as an annual, leaves sometimes purple-tinged, with deep violet-blue or lavender-blue flowers in dense flower heads in summer.  To 1.2m.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘This plant recommends itself by its fragrance rather than its beauty; so delicious indeed is the odour it diffuses, that it is considered as essential to every greenhouse and stove.  

“It grows naturally in Peru, from whence the seeds were sent by the younger Jussieu to the royal garden at Paris, where the plants produced flowers and seeds; and from the curious garden of the Duke d’Ayen, at St. Germain’s, I was supplied with some of the seeds, which have succeeded in the Chelsea garden, where the plants have flowered and perfected their seeds for some years.” Miller’s Gard. Dict.  

You may consider it either as a stove or a green-house plant, the former is more congenial to it in the winter season.  A pure atmosphere is essential to its existence, as I experienced at Lambeth-Marsh, where I in vain endeavoured to cultivate it.  It is propagated by cuttings as easily as any Geranium, and requires a similar treatment; in hot weather it must be well supplied with water, and in winter carefully guarded against frost, so fatal to most of the natives of Peru.’  [BM t.141/1790]. 

Introduced to Britain in 1757.  [PD].  Improved forms were available by the 1830s.  Don describes the variety hybridum with larger flowers, raised by Mr. More of the King’s Road, London, about 1815.  Later editions of Paxton’s Dictionary also list the variety Voltairanum, with blue-purple flowers, introduced in 1846.  This was probably similar to the still-available cultivar ‘Lord Roberts’.

History at Camden Park

Listed in all published catalogues [H.112/1843].


Published Feb 02, 2009 - 04:39 PM | Last updated Mar 05, 2010 - 01:16 PM

Depicted is a shoot with leaves and an umbel of small pale, violet-tinged flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.141, 1790.

Heliotropium arborescens L. | BM t.141/1790 | BHL

Family Boraginaceae
Region of origin


  • Heliotropium peruvianum L.
Common Name

Cherry pie, Heliotrope

Name in the Camden Park Record

Heliotropium peruvianum 

Confidence level high