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.

Pachystachys coccinea (Aubl.) Nees

Frost tender, erect shrub with robust, simple or sparsely-branched stems, slightly wrinkled, heavily veined, elliptic leaves, and terminal spikes of tubular, 2-lipped scarlet flowers, with pale green bracts, to 15cm long, in winter.  To 2m.  [RHSE].

Horticultural & Botanical History

First botanically described as Justicia coccinea by Aublet in 1775 [Hist. Pl. Guiane vol.1, p.10/1775]. Nees proposed the genus Pachystachys in 1847 and the new combination Pachystachys coccinea in the same year [Prod. DC vol.11, p.319/1847]. This is the name generally accepted today.

‘Of the several species of Justicia cultivated in our stoves, the present [Justicia coccinea] excels in magnificence and show; it rises to a considerable height, and produces its blossoms early in the spring, when it flowers in perfection; the spikes are of the size of those represented on the plate, the drawing of which was made from a plant which flowered with Messrs. Whitley and Barrit, Nurserymen, Old-Brompton.  It is a native of South-America, and was introduced to the royal garden at Kew in 1770.  Is propagated without difficulty by cuttings.’  [BM t.432/1799]. 

‘The present species is an old inhabitant of our stoves, being introduced as early as 1770.  It makes a very splendid show when in flower, the richness of its scarlet appearing very conspicuous.’  [MB p.102/1834].  Introduced to Britain in 1827.  [PD].  LBC no.903/1825.

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [T.608/1850].  Probably obtained from Veitch’s Nursery and brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in 1849.  Believed by Macarthur to be a new introduction at that time, but he reported that two plants arrived, one sick the other dead.  It was also obtained from Loddiges’ Nursery, brought out by King at the same time as the Veitch importation.  [ML A1980-3]. Naturalised in Queensland [APNI].


Published Feb 22, 2010 - 12:05 PM | Last updated May 01, 2011 - 10:17 AM

Figured are heavily veined leaves and terminal raceme of tubular deep red flowers.  Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.432, 1799.

Pachystachys coccinea (Aubl.) Nees | BM t.432/1799 as Justicia coccinea  | BHL

Family Acanthaceae
Region of origin

South America, West Indies

  • Justicia coccinea Aubl.
  • Jacobinia coccinea (Aubl.) Hiern
  • Justicia carnea Hook. ex Nees
  • Dianthera coccinea Salisb.
  • Pachystachys asperula Nees
  • Thyrsacanthus coccineus (Aubl.) T.Anderson
Common Name

Cardinal?s guard

Name in the Camden Park Record

Justicia coccinea 

Confidence level high