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.

Lawsonia inermis L.

Frost tender, large evergreen shrub or small tree, sometimes spiny, with lance-shaped leaves, to 5cm long, and pyramidal panicles, to 40cm long, of many tiny, fragrant, white, pink or red flowers, in summer.  To 6m.  [RHSE, Hortus].

Horticultural & Botanical History

‘On the coast of Coromandel where it is indigenous, I have commonly found it in the state of a large shrub, though it is naturally a small, ramous tree.  Here it is in flower and seed most part of the year. […] It is much used for hedges, growing readily from cuttings; consequently fertile seeds are not often met with.  The flowers are remarkably fragrant, whether fresh or dry, and are particularly grateful at a distance.

The species called spinosa is nothing more, I imagine, than the same plant growing on a dry sterile soil; at least, in such soils, I have often found it very thorny, the branchlets being then short and rigid, with sharp thorny points.

The fresh leaves beat up with Catechu, dyes the nails and skin of a reddish orange colour, which is much admixed by the fair sex all over India.  The fresh made paste is laid on at bed time, and removed in the morning; the colour remains till the nails or epedermis is renewed, or removed.

The leaves yield in decoction a porter coloured liquor; I have found it a deep orange colour, which acids destroy, while alkalies and infusions of astringent vegetables deepen it; this decoction dyes the finger of a deep orange; but does not communicate any colour to cloth variously prepared, nor could I procure any precipitate from the decoction worth attending to. [Roxburgh vol.2, p.258/1832]

Introduced to Britain in 1752.  It is a source of the dye henna.  [JD].

History at Camden Park

Possibly introduced by Macarthur because of its economic value as a source of dye but probably short lived in the gardens as it only appears in the 1850 catalogue.


Published Mar 05, 2010 - 03:07 PM | Last updated Mar 05, 2010 - 03:09 PM

Family Lythraceae
Region of origin

North Africa to northern Australia

Common Name

Henna tree, Mignonette tree

Name in the Camden Park Record

Lawsonia inermis            

Confidence level high