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.

Phlogacanthus asperulus Wall.

Frost tender, erect shrub with quadrangular stems, large, opposite, elliptic leaves, toothed towards the apex, and a terminal flower spike bearing purplish-red, funnel-shaped flowers, curved and inflated near the top, in winter.  To 1m.  [RHSD].

Horticultural & Botanical History

Phlogacanthus asperulus Wall. is the name generally given to this plant and that is the name used here. However, from the chronology given below Phlogacanthus vitellinus T. Anders. would appear to have  a greater claim. The combination Phlogacanthus quadrangularis, suggested by H. Heine in 1988, also has priority over P. asperulus [Adansonia Sér. 4, vol.10(2), p.148/1988].

The first published reference to this plant appears to be as Justicia vitellina in 1814 in Roxburgh’s Hortus Bengalensis. [Roxburgh Hort. Bengal. vol.3/1814]. I have not sighted this reference but belief it was without description. This was remedied in 1820 in Flora Indica. ‘Shrubby, erect. Leaves broad-lanceolar, reflexed, smooth. Racemes terminal, cylindric; flowers opposite; below fascicled, about the middle tern, and above single; sub-ringent, with ample-campanulate throat. Capsule linear, few-seeded. A native of the hilly parts of Chittagong, where it blossoms in February and March. … Flowers rather small, colour yellowish pink.’ [Roxburgh FI p.117/1820]

In 1832 Nees proposed the genus Phlogacanthus for some of the Indian species of Justicia [Wallich vol.3, p.76 /1832]. The combination Phlogacanthus asperulus first appeared in 1831-2 in Wallich’s numerical list of dried specimens held at the Calcutta Botanic Gardens, and was more fully described in Plantae Asiaticae Rariores [Wallich vol.3, p.76 /1832].

It was described in Curtis’s Botanical Magazine in 1828 as Justicia quadrangularis. ‘This very distinctly marked species of Justicia, which I do not find described by any botanical author, exists in the stove of the Glasgow Botanic Garden, and is marked as having been sent from Mr. Barclay’s collection at Bury Hill, under the name of “J. asprella”.  But there is nothing in the slightest degree rough about the plant; and it is to be feared there has been some mistake in labelling it. It is probably a native of the Mauritious or Madagascar, and one of Mr. Bojer’s discoveries. It flowers in the month of January.’ [BM t.2845/1828].

It first appeared as Justicia asperula in the Botanical Cabinet. ‘Introduced very lately by Dr. Wallich, to the garden of the Horticultural Society, whence it was communicated to us. It appears to be a low shrubby plant, producing its elegant flowers in great abundance and in long succession, forming a pleasing addition to the number of flowering stove plants. It will increase without difficulty by cuttings, and should be potted in light loam.’  [LBC no.1681/1832].

In 1867 Anderson concluded that Justicia vitellina and J. asperula were synonymous, although no mention is made of Justicia quadrangularis. ‘The synonymy shows that this species [Phlogacanthus vitellinus T. Anders.] has been twice described by Nees, first as Phlogacanthus asperulus, and again in the supplementary part of the 11th volume of De Candolle’s “Prodromus,” as Endopogon vitellinus. There is an excellent drawing of Justicia vitellina among Roxburgh’s coloured figures of Indian plants in the Library of the Botanical Gardens. The living plants in the garden are still known to the native gardeners as Justicia asperula, the name taught them by Wallich. There can be no doubt about the identity of Roxburgh’s Justicia vitellina and Wallich’s J. asperula.’ [J. Linn. Soc. Bot. vol.9, p.507/1867].

‘A native of Sylhet, whence it was introduced into the Botanic Garden, Calcutta, in August 1822.  With us it forms a small bush in the stove, flowering in October.’  [BR f.1340/1830 as Justicia quadrangularis].  

History at Camden Park

Listed in the 1850 and 1857 catalogues [T.606/1850].  Obtained from Loddiges’ Nursery, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in 1849.  [MP A1980-3].  


Published Feb 22, 2010 - 11:47 AM | Last updated Apr 11, 2011 - 04:58 PM

Shown are elliptic leaves and a terminal spike of purplish-red, funnel-shaped flowers. Curtis's Botanical Magazine t.1340, 1830.

Phlogacanthus asperulus Wall. | BM t.1340/1830 as Justicia quadrangularis | BHL

Family Acanthaceae
Region of origin


  • Justicia asperula Lodd.
  • Justicia quadrangularis Hook.
  • Justicia vitellina Roxb.
  • Phlogacanthus vitellinus T. Anders
  • Phlogacanthus wallichii C.B.Clarke
  • Phlogacanthus quadrangularis (Hook.) H.Heine
Common Name
Name in the Camden Park Record

Justicia asperula 

Confidence level high