1. Family: Euphorbiaceae Juss.
    1. Genus: Acalypha L.
      1. Acalypha hispida Burm.f.

        This exotic evergreen gets its common name from the French chenille, meaning hairy caterpillar, whilst also referring to the velvety strands of chenille yarn. This soft, tufted yarn has the characteristic texture and appearance echoed in the pendulous flowering tassels of chenille plant.

    [FZ]

    Euphorbiaceae, A. Radcliffe-Smith. Flora Zambesiaca 9:4. 1996

    Habit
    A much-branched shrub up to 2 m tall, dioecious.
    Shoots
    Young shoots and petioles tomentose, later sparingly puberulous or glabrescent.
    Petiole
    Petioles up to 15 cm long; leaf blades up to 20 × 15 cm, broadly ovate or rhombic-ovate, shortly acuminate at the apex, serrate on the margins, rounded or cuneate at the base, 5–7-nerved from the base, thinly chartaceous, sparingly pubescent to subglabrous on both surfaces, more evenly pubescent along the midrib and main veins; lateral nerves in 6–9 pairs.
    Stipules
    Stipules 6–7 mm long, lanceolate, sparingly pubescent, brown.
    Inflorescences
    Male inflorescences unknown. Female inflorescences up to 30 cm long, spicate, axillary, solitary, dense-flowered, bright red on account of the masses of styles; axis sparingly pubescent; female bracts minute, ovate, acute, entire, not accrescent.
    Male
    Male inflorescences unknown.
    Flowers
    Female flowers sessile; sepals 3–4, 0.7 mm long, triangular-ovate, acute, ciliate; ovary 1 mm in diameter, 3-lobed to subglobose, densely pubescent; styles 5–7 mm long, ± free to the base, laciniate, bright red.
    Female
    Female flowers sessile; sepals 3–4, 0.7 mm long, triangular-ovate, acute, ciliate; ovary 1 mm in diameter, 3-lobed to subglobose, densely pubescent; styles 5–7 mm long, ± free to the base, laciniate, bright red. Female inflorescences up to 30 cm long, spicate, axillary, solitary, dense-flowered, bright red on account of the masses of styles; axis sparingly pubescent; female bracts minute, ovate, acute, entire, not accrescent.
    Fruits
    Mature fruit and seeds not known.
    [CPLC]

    Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

    Distribution
    Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 100 - 1600 m.; Andes, Islas Caribeñas, Llanura del Caribe, Pacífico, Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta.
    Habit
    Arbusto
    [FTEA]

    Euphorbiaceae, A. R.-Smith. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 1987

    Habit
    A much-branched dioecious shrub up to 2 m.
    Shoots
    Young shoots tomentose, later sparingly puberulous or glabrescent.
    Leaves
    Petioles 1–5 cm. long; leaf-blade broadly ovate or rhomboid-ovate, 9–15 cm. long, (4.5–)7–11 cm. wide, subacutely acuminate, rounded or cuneate, serrate, thinly chartaceous, 5-nerved from the base, lateral nerves 6–9 pairs, subglabrous or sparingly pubescent above and beneath, more evenly so along the midrib and main veins, and densely so in the axils of the veins beneath, veins reddish.
    Stipules
    Stipules lanceolate, 6–7 mm. long, sparingly pubescent, brown.
    Inflorescences
    Inflorescences spicate, axillary, solitary, ♂’s not seen; ♀’s up to 30 cm. long, densely flowered, bright red by virtue of the masses of styles; axis sparingly pubescent; ♀ bracts minute, ovate, acute, entire, not accrescent.
    Flowers
    Female flowers sessile; sepals 3–4, triangular-ovate, 0.7 mm. long, acute, ciliate; ovary subglobose-trilobate, 1 mm. diameter, densely pubescent; styles ± free to the base, 5–7 mm. long, laciniate, bright red.
    Female
    Female flowers sessile; sepals 3–4, triangular-ovate, 0.7 mm. long, acute, ciliate; ovary subglobose-trilobate, 1 mm. diameter, densely pubescent; styles ± free to the base, 5–7 mm. long, laciniate, bright red.
    Distribution
    widely cultivated in the tropics generallycountry of origin not known for certain, but possibly the Bismarck Archipelago T3 T6
    [KSP]

    Kew Species Profiles

    General Description

    This exotic evergreen gets its common name from the French chenille, meaning hairy caterpillar, whilst also referring to the velvety strands of chenille yarn. This soft, tufted yarn has the characteristic texture and appearance echoed in the pendulous flowering tassels of chenille plant.

    It is also known by the common name 'red hot cat's tail', in relation to the dense and fluffy appearance of the inflorescences (flowering parts), thought by some to be reminiscent of a cat's tail.

    The generic name Acalypha is from the Greek for nettle, as nettle leaves are similar to those of some Acalypha species. The specific epithet hispida derives from the Latin hispidus, meaning hairy or bristly, which describes the appearance of the drooping red inflorescences.

    Chenille plant is a cultigen (a plant that has been altered by humans through a process of selective breeding) and its exact origin is unknown. It is widely cultivated as an ornamental for its decorative, colourful and texturally exciting flowers.

    Species Profile
    Geography and distribution

    The exact origin of Acalypha hispida is unknown. It is possibly native to Malesia (a floristic region that includes the Malay Peninsula, the Malay Archipelago, New Guinea, and the Bismarck Archipelago).

    It has been introduced to many other tropical countries and is naturalised in the tropical regions of Africa, America and Asia.

    Description

    Overview: A showy, tropical shrub up to 3 m tall and 3 m wide, but generally kept smaller in cultivation by pruning. Vigorous, erect, sparsely branched with smooth, green bark. Inflorescences are unisexual and plants are likely to be dioecious: producing distinct staminate (male) and pistillate (female) flowers on separate plants (although only female plants are known).

    Leaves: Evergreen, oval, 10-23 cm long and 7.5-10.0 cm wide, with coarsely toothed edges and a pointed tip. Bright green above, pale green below. Borne alternately along the stems.

    Flowers: Borne in attractive, pendant catkin-like inflorescences, 30-50 cm long by 0.8-1.0 cm wide, ranging in colour from deep purple to bright red. Individual female flowers about 1 mm wide, lacking in petals but bearing feathery, brightly coloured stigmas, are borne in tight clusters on the axis of the inflorescence. These showy, velvety catkins are produced sporadically throughout the year. They are very long-lasting, gradually fading and browning as they age.

    Fruits: Only female specimens are known, and fruits and seeds have not been recorded.

    Uses

    Ornamental

    Chenille plant is widely cultivated as an ornamental, for its long, slender, drooping inflorescences. A perennial with a long flowering-period, it is often used as a centrepiece for tropical or subtropical gardens. With proper care and favourable conditions, it will bloom several times a year. It is commonly used as an accent, for informal borders and hedges, or as a specimen or container plant.

    It has been given the Royal Horticultural Society's Award of Garden Merit for its excellent use as a decorative garden plant.

    Traditional medicine

    Acalypha hispida has been used in traditional remedies, as a laxative, diuretic, expectorant (for asthma) and in the treatment of leprosy and kidney ailments. The bark, flowers and roots have been used to create medicines for the relief of asthma symptoms. The roots have been boiled and the resulting liquid drunk to treat dysentery.

    In Indonesia, a root and flower decoction is used to stop patients coughing up blood. In Africa, a poultice of the leaves is used to treat leprosy. In Malaysia, a decoction of leaves and flowers is externally applied to treat wounds and ulcers and is taken internally as a laxative and as a diuretic.

    Western medicine

    Research into the medicinal properties of chenille plant has revealed a range of possible uses. Scientific research has established the antifungal properties and antimicrobial activity of extracts of leaves, supporting their use in the treatment of thrush, wounds and ulcers. Alcoholic extracts of chenille plant have been reported to be biologically active against bacteria such as Pseudomonas aeruginosa , Escherichia coli , Staphylococcus aureus and Salmonella typhi. Screenings to determine the chemical properties of aqueous and leaf methanolic extracts showed the presence of phenolics, flavonoids, glycosides, steroids, saponins, phlobatannins and hydroxyanthraquinones, which indicate its potential use in healthcare. A recent scientific investigation revealed that chenille plant could be a potential source of antioxidants, used as a future therapy against diseases such as cancer and coronary heart disease.

    Cultivation

    As only female plants are grown, chenille plant must be propagated via cuttings. At Kew, specimens are grown in the glasshouses at high temperature and high humidity. Plants require regular watering, feeding and pruning to keep them healthy and in a good shape.

    As older specimens deteriorate they are replaced with new cuttings. Softwood cuttings are taken in early spring, while semi-hardwood cuttings are taken in late summer.

    In warmer climates, chenille plant can be grown outdoors in fertile, humus-rich, moist but well-drained soil, in sun or part shade.

    This species at Kew

    Chenille plant can be seen growing in Kew's Palm House and Waterlily House.

    A specimen of Acalypha hispida wood is held in Kew's Economic Botany Collection, where it is available to researchers by appointment.

    Dried and spirit-preserved specimens of Acalypha species are held in Kew's Herbarium where they are available to researchers by appointment. The details of some of these specimens can be seen online in Kew's Herbarium Catalogue.

    Distribution
    Malaysia, Papua New Guinea
    Ecology
    Only known in cultivation; naturalised on roadsides and in secondary forest.
    Conservation
    Widespread in cultivation (but only females plants are known).
    Hazards

    None known.

    [KSP]
    Use
    Ornamental, medicinal.

    Images

    Distribution

    Native to:

    Bismarck Archipelago

    Introduced into:

    Andaman Is., Bangladesh, Benin, Burundi, Cayman Is., Cook Is., Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Equatorial Guinea, Gambia, Gulf of Guinea Is., Haiti, Leeward Is., Madagascar, Marquesas, Nicobar Is., Puerto Rico, Society Is., Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad-Tobago, Tuamotu, Tubuai Is., Venezuelan Antilles

    Common Names

    English
    Chenille plant

    Acalypha hispida Burm.f. appears in other Kew resources:

    Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
    s.coll. [s.n.], Bismarck Archipelago K000959065 Unknown type material
    s.coll. [s.n.] K000959067
    s.coll. [s.n.] K000959066

    First published in Fl. Indica: 303 (1768)

    Accepted by

    • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
    • Barberá, P., Velayos, M. & Aedo, C. (2013). Annotated checklist and identification keys of the Acalyphoideae (Euphorbiaceae) of Equatorial Guinea (Annobón, Bioko and Río Muni) Phytotaxa 140: 1-25.
    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Cardiel, J.M. & Muñoz Rodríguez, P. (2012). Synopsis of Acalypha (Euphorbiaceae) of continental Ecuador PhytoKeys 17: 1-17.
    • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
    • Sagun, V.G., Levin, G.A. & van Welzen, P.C. (2010). Revision and phylogeny of Acalypha (Euphorbiaceae) in Malesia Blumea 55: 21-60.
    • Masharabu, T., Bigendako, M.J., Lejoly, J., Nkengurutse, J., Noret, N., Bizuru, E. & Bogaert, J. (2010). Etude analytique de la flore et de la végétation du Parc National de la Ruvubu, Burundi International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences 4: 834-856.
    • Pandey, R.P. & Dilwakar, P.G. (2008). An integrated check-list flora of Andaman and Nicobar islands, India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 32: 403-500.
    • Chayamarit, K. & Van Welzen, P.C. (2005). Euphorbiaceae (Genera A-F) Flora of Thailand 8(1): 1-303. The Forest Herbarium, National Park, Wildlife and Plant Conservation Department, Bangkok.
    • Stevens, W.D., Ulloa U., C., Pool, A. & Montiel, O.M. (2001). Flora de Nicaragua Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 85: i-xlii, 1-2666.
    • Govaerts, R., Frodin, D.G. & Radcliffe-Smith, A. (2000). World Checklist and Bibliography of Euphorbiaceae (and Pandaceae) 1-4: 1-1622. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
    • Welsh, S.L. (1998). Flora Societensis: 1-420. E.P.S. Inc. Utah.
    • Florence, J. (1997). Flore de la Polynésie Française 1: 1-393. ORSTOM éditions, Paris.
    • Govaerts, R. (1995). World Checklist of Seed Plants 1(1, 2): 1-483, 1-529. MIM, Deurne.
    • Jones, M. (1991). A checklist of Gambian plants: 1-33. Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
    • Smith, A.C. (1981). Flora Vitiensis Nova. A new flora for Fiji (Spermatophytes only) 2: 1-810. Pacific Tropical Botanical Garden, Lawai.

    Literature

    Kew Species Profiles
    • Quattrocchi, U. (2012). CRC World Dictionary of Medicinal and Poisonous Plants: Common Names, Scientific Names, Eponyms, Synonyms and Etymology. CRC Press (Taylor and Francis Group), USA.
    • Fayaz, A. (2011). Encyclopaedia of Tropical Plants: Identification and Cultivation of over 3000 Tropical Plants. University of New South Wales Press Ltd., Sydney, Australia.
    • Onocha, P., Oloyede, G. & Afolabi, Q. (2011). Phytochemical investigation, cytotoxicity and free radical scavenging activities of non polar fractions of Acalypha hispida (leaves and twigs). EXCLI Journal 10: 1–8.
    • Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
    • Adesina, S. K., Idowu, O., Ogundaini, A. O., Oladimeji, H., Olugbade, T. A. & Onawunmi, G.O. (2000). Antimicrobial constituents of the leaves of Acalypha wilkesiana and Acalypha hispida. Phytotherapy Research 14: 371–374.
    • Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1997). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening, Volume 1 (A–C). The Stockton Press, New York.
    Kew Backbone Distributions
    • Baksh-Comeau, Y., Maharaj, S.S., Adams, C.D., Harris, S.A., Filer, D.L. & Hawthorne, W.D. (2016). An annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Trinidad and Tobago with analysis of vegetation types and botanical 'hotspots' Phytotaxa 250: 1-431.
    • Barberá, P., Velayos, M. & Aedo, C. (2013). Annotated checklist and identification keys of the Acalyphoideae (Euphorbiaceae) of Equatorial Guinea (Annobón, Bioko and Río Muni) Phytotaxa 140: 1-25.
    • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
    • Cardiel, J.M. & Muñoz Rodríguez, P. (2012). Synopsis of Acalypha (Euphorbiaceae) of continental Ecuador PhytoKeys 17: 1-17.
    • Acevedo-Rodríguez, P. & Strong, M.T. (2012). Catalogue of seed plants of the West Indies Smithsonian Contributions to Botany 98: 1-1192.
    • Masharabu, T., Bigendako, M.J., Lejoly, J., Nkengurutse, J., Noret, N., Bizuru, E. & Bogaert, J. (2010). Etude analytique de la flore et de la végétation du Parc National de la Ruvubu, Burundi International Journal of Biological and Chemical Sciences 4: 834-856.
    • Pandey, R.P. & Dilwakar, P.G. (2008). An integrated check-list flora of Andaman and Nicobar islands, India Journal of Economic and Taxonomic Botany 32: 403-500.
    • Welsh, S.L. (1998). Flora Societensis: 1-420. E.P.S. Inc. Utah.
    • Florence, J. (1997). Flore de la Polynésie Française 1: 1-393. ORSTOM éditions, Paris.
    • Jones, M. (1991). A checklist of Gambian plants: 1-33. Michael Jones, The Gambia College.
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    • Troupin, Fl. Rwanda 2: 196, t. 57/1 (1983).
    • J.P.M. Brenan, Check-lists of the Forest Trees and Shrubs of the British Empire no. 5, part II, Tanganyika Territory p. 196 (1949).
    • Pax in A. Engler, Das Pflanzenreich IV. 147(16): 140 (1924).
    • Muell. Arg. in DC., Prodr. 15(2): 815 (1866).
    • Burm.f., Fl. Indica: 203, t. 61, fig. 1 (1768).

    Sources

    Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Flora Zambesiaca
    Flora Zambesiaca
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    Flora of Tropical East Africa
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0

    Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
    'The Herbarium Catalogue, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet http://www.kew.org/herbcat [accessed on Day Month Year]'. Please enter the date on which you consulted the system.
    Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

    Kew Backbone Distributions
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2019. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
    © Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

    Kew Species Profiles
    Kew Species Profiles
    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0