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Clerodendrum inerme (L.) Gaertn. 1788
pronounced: cler-oh-DEN-drum IN-er-me
(Lamiaceae – the lavender family)
synonym: Volkameria inermis L. 1753
pronounced: voll-kuh-MER-ee-uh IN-er-miss
common name: Seaside Clerodendrum, Indian Privet, Seashore Tubeflower
Clerodendrum comes from two Greek words, κληρος (kléros), fate, or chance, and δενδρον (dendron), a tree; Volkameria is named hor Johann Georg Volkamer (1662-1744), a German physician. Inermis is Latin for unarmed, or defenceless, i.e. without spines.
This shrub or small tree is an Australian native, usually found growing in coastal forests and the inland side of mangrove communities, at about the high tide mark. It is found in tropical Asia and in many Pacific Islands. In Australia, it grows along most of the east coast of Queensland and Northern NSW. There is a great deal of it along the Magnetic Island coastline.
This erect, sprawling or climbing shrub grows to heights of up to 6 m. The stems are woody, and smooth. The opposite, simple leaves are ovate or elliptic, usually 3–10 cm long, 1–4 cm wide, the apex obtuse to shortly acuminate, the base more or less rounded. The margins are entire, and the petiole is from 5 mm to 2 cm long. The leaves are green, smooth, with a slightly shiny upper surface.
It has attractive white axillary flowers, often appearing terminal, usually 3–7-flowered, up to about 5 cm long with 4 purplish stamens extending beyond the petals, and upwardly curved; the corolla is fused, with 5 lobes; the calyx is minutely 5-toothed.
The oval-shaped fruit is a drupe, a little over 1 cm long, green turning black, surrounded at the base by a scarcely spreading calyx, tinged with red. It splits into four single-seeded nutlets when mature. The seeds are dispersed by birds.
The plant is used in many places in landscaping, as a ground cover or a hedge plant, especially near the sea, as it tolerates the salt spray. It is doing very well after being planted on reclaimed land at the Nelly Bay Harbour. It does, however, have aggressive growth characteristics, and is likely to become invasive in areas where it does not naturally occur, but where it has been planted. There are signs of this happening in parts of Hawaii. It has the potential to form dense brambles smothering other plants, and would probably be difficult to remove.
In the Marshall Islands, the wood of this plant (there called Wulej) is used to make fishing poles and fish traps, and its flowers are used in garlands. As part of a reconciliation, the offended person’s head may be wreathed in a Wulej garland. There is a saying there, ‘Wulej in kaennommam’, (Wulej brings peace). A wreath of the flowers may also be given to a person suffering from depression. The flowers are used to perfume coconut oil.
Parts of the plant are used in medicinal preparations; for example, Wulej is an ingredient in a baby bath preparation which is reckoned to prevent body odour in the baby in later life! A decoction of the root is administered as a febrifuge, and the leaves are used to make poultices. The seeds ot the finely ground root are used as a remedy for an upset stomach, especially if caused by poisonous seafood. In Vietnam, a decoction of roasted leaves is considered a remedy for beriberi. its root boiled in oil is used as a linament in treating rheumatism.
This is a food plant for the Gram Blue butterfly Euchrysops cnejus.
Well-meaning people who are trying to help eradicate the noxious weed Rubber Vine (Cryptostegia grandiflora) have been known to attack the seaside clerodendrum by mistake. There is some similarity between the two plants when they are not in flower.
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.
Photographs taken in Nelly Bay 2009, 2011
Page last updated 17th December 2017