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Clerodendrum heterophyllum (Vent.) R.Br. 1812 †
pronounced: cler-oh-DEN-drum het-er-oh-FY-lum
(Lamiaceae – the lavender family)
synonym: Volkameria heterophylla Vent. 1804 †
pronounced: voll-kuh-MER-ee-uh het-er-oh-FY-luh
common names: Tree of Little Stars, Wood Chenille (Bois de chenille)
Clerodendrum is derived from the Greek κληρος (kléros), fate, or chance, and δενδρον (dendron) a tree; volkameria is named hor Johann Georg Volkamer (1662-1744), a German physician. Heterophyllum is from 'ετερος (heteros), different and φυλλον (phyllon), a leaf.
This is a medium shrub or small tree to 4 m in height, with white star-like flowers that are slightly fragrant. It is endemic to Réunion Island in the Macarenes, the home of the extinct Dodo, and also Mauritius, in both of which islands it is an endangered species. It occurs naturally in semi-dry forests at low altitudes. On Réunion, it is still to be found in the forest and gullies between Saint Paul and Saint Leu.
The bark is pale brown, and there are often multiple stems at the base; the twigs are minutely pubescent. Juvenile leaves are narrowly linear; adult leaves are elliptic to ovate, acute to acuminate at the apex. Small white 5-petaled flowers are produced in terminal cymes and the axils of upper leaves. The fruit is a drupe, spherical, smooth and white.
This plant can be trimmed into a nice bushy specimen, and it is also suitable for bonsai culture.
The Clerodendrum genus is used in a large number of indigenous and folk systems of medicine, especially in Indian, Chinese, Thai, Korean and Japanese systems, for the treatment of various life-threatening diseases such as syphilis, typhoid, cancer, jaundice and hypertension. Powders, pastes, and various extracts of roots, leaves and stems are used as medicines for the treatment of asthma, fevers, cataracts, malaria, and diseases of the blood, skin and lungs.
Information about medicinal qualities of plants, or about their use as medicines, is for interest only, and is not intended to be used as a guide for the treatment of medical conditions.
† Kew Gardens, in The Plant List, attributes the plant to Jean Poiret, instead of Étienne Ventenat. Poiret was indeed responsible for the original publication in Hortus Kewensis in December 1812, but he directly cited the earlier Ventenat publication of 1804.
Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2011, Horseshoe Bay 2013
Page last updated 16th December 2017