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.

Justicia spicigera Schltdl.

Evergreen shrub with large glossy leaves and tubular crimson to orange flowers in one-sided terminal and axillary panicles.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

This popular tender shrub, widely cultivated in Central America to produce a laundry bluing agent, was first botanically described as Justicia spicigera by Schlechtendal in 1832 [Linnaea vol.7, p.395/1832]. It was subsequently described under a number of names but the original, Justicia spicigera, is generally accepted today. The name by which it was known to Macarthur, Aphelandra ghiesbreghtiana, is of later origin [FS f.339/1848]. In modern horticultural literature Justicia ghiesbreghtiana (and its nomenclature variations) is mostly considered synonymous with Justicia spicigera Schltdl. In the botanical literature I have not found a specific reference linking ghiesbreghtiana to spicigera but it is generally regarded as a doubtful species. It is probably a variety with red rather than orange flowers (see the illustration from FS f.339/1848).

‘This plant [Jacobinia spicigera (Schltdl.) L.H.Bailey] is well known in Mexico and nearly throughout Central America.  The leaves are placed in hot water, which at first assumes a dingy blackish color but later becomes dark blue.  This solution is employed by laundresses for whitening clothes, in the same manner as indigo.  The plant was employed formerly in Mexico also as a dye.  It is used as a remedy for dysentery, fevers, gonorrhoea, and other affections.’  [Standley – Contributions from the U. S. National Herbarium: Trees and Shrubs of Mexico p.1345/1920]. Standley cites Justicia spicigera Schlecht. Linnaea 7: 395. 1832; Justicia atramentaria Benth. Pl. Hartw. 69. 1840; Drejera willdenowiana Nees in DC. Prodr. 11: 334. 1847; Sericographis mohinili Nees in DC. Prodr. 11: 361. 1847; and Jacobinia mohintli Hemsl. Biol. Centr. Amer. Bot. 2: 521. 1882 as synonyms. This author describes Jacobinia ghiesbrechtiana (Lem.) Hemsl. as a doubtful species described from cultivated plants of Mexican origin.

Introduced to Britain as Jacobinia ghiesbrechtiana in 1843.  [RHSD].

History at Camden Park

Listed only in the 1857 catalogue [T.61/1857]. Recorded as ‘doubtfully naturalised’ in Queensland in APNI.


Published Feb 25, 2009 - 03:16 PM | Last updated May 01, 2011 - 09:36 AM

Figured are large glossy leaves and tubular crimson flowers in one-sided panicles.  Flore des Serres f.339, 1848.

Justicia spicigera Schltdl. | FS f.339/1848 as Cyrtanthera ghiesbreghtii | CSIRO Black Mountain Library, Canberra

Family Acanthaceae
Region of origin


  • Justicia atramentaria Benth.
  • Justicia ghiesbreghtiana Lem.
  • Justicia liebmannii V.A.W.Graham
  • Justicia scarlatina (S.F.Blake) V.A.W.Graham
  • Jacobinia atramenteria (Benth. S.F.Blake)
  • Jacobinia spicigera (Schltdl.) L.H.Bailey
  • Jacobinia ghiesbrechtiana Benth. & Hook.f.
  • Jacobinia mohintli Benth. & Hook.f.
  • Jacobinia neglecta (Oerst.) A.Gray
  • Jacobinia scarlatina S.F.Blake
  • Aphelandra ghiesbreghtiana Hort. ex Lem.
  • Cyrtanthera ghiesbreghtii Decne.
  • Drejera willdenowiana Nees
  • Sericographis ghiesbreghtiana Nees
  • Sericographis mohinili Nees
  • Sericographis neglecta Oerst.
Common Name

Mexican honeysuckle, Firecracker plant, Orange plume

Name in the Camden Park Record

Aphelandra Gheisbrechtii

Confidence level high