Wrightia antidysenterica

Arctic snow


Wrightia antidysenterica

(L.) R.Br. 1809

pronounced: rye-TEE-uh an-tie-diss-en-TEAR-ih-kuh

(Apocynaceae — the oleander family)


common name: Arctic snow

Wrightia is for William Wright (1735-1819), Scottish physician and botanist, who worked for many years in Jamaica, and classified hundreds of the native plants; antidysenterica is Latin, anti-, against, dysintericus, pertaining to dysentery, referring to the medicinal qualities of the plant.

This is a perennial ornamental semi-deciduous (the leaves may drop in cold weather) small tree or shrub, growing to a height of 1 - 2 m, with a spread of about 1.5 m. that hails from Sri Lanka, and has been long known in Ayurvedic medicine. The bark is said to have anti-microbial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used as an adulterant for the drug Holarrhena antidysenterica. The juice from the bark is used for the relief of mouth sores, and the leaves are used in the treatment of several skin disorders. As well, the juice of the plant is an important ingredient for a particular type of wall plaster.

It prefers to grow in bright light, including full sun. It can tolerate part shade, but this will result in fewer flowers. In the right conditions, it will flower for most of the year. It also likes a well-drained loamy soil, preferably slightly acidic. It has a rather poor tolerance of salt spray. It can be propagated by stem cuttings, with some difficulty: marcotting or air-layering may be an easier option.

The plant is a moderate grower with short and divaricate branches that turn chocolaty brown as it ages, with dark green ovate and acuminate opposite leaves 2.5-6 cm long.

The fragrant flowers, star-shaped and 2.5 - 3.5 cm in diameter, are pure white, tubular and 5-petalled with rather a frilly corolla at the throat, and a yellow centre of stamens, and grow in corymb-like cymes at the ends of the branches.

If the plant becomes leggy, some light pruning or pinching may be needed. If heavier pruning is required, it is best carried out in early spring. It makes a good container plant, and may also be used as a hedging plant. It is a popular hedge in Cairns, and there is a short hedge in the Townville CBD, on the pavement at the corner of Sturt and Stokes Streets.

Arctic Snow is good at attracting butterflies to the garden.


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.


Photographed in Picnic Bay 2012-2015
Page last updated 27th April 2019