Rotheca myricoides

blue butterfly flower


Rotheca myricoides ssp. myricoides

(Hochst.) Steane & Mabb. 1998

pronounced: roth-EE-kuh mir-ih-KOY-deez

(Lamiaceae — the lavender family)

synonym — Clerodendrum ugandense

Prain. 1909

pronounced: kleh-roh-DEN-drum yoo-gan-DEN-see

common names: blue butterfly flower, Oxford and Cambridge

Rotheca is a word coined by the remarkable child prodigy Rafinesque in 1836, when he latinized two Malaysian words, cheriya (small) and thekku (teak) to name this genus, which was removed from Clerodendrum; myricoides is botanical Latin for ‘resembling Myrica ’(Sweet Gale or Bog Myrtle); ugandense means, of course, ‘from Uganda’. The common name Blue Butterfly Flower is from the shape and colour of the flower. Oxford and Cambridge is not an Australian common name for this species, but is used in England, where it refers to the light blue and dark blue colours of the two ancient universities.

This plant has been cultivated in botanical gardens for almost a hundred years, but has only recently been considered suitable for being planted in pots. It is a fast-growing plant that in nature grows up to about 3 m. It is deciduous in most climates, losing its leaves in winter; but here it is photographed just coming into flower at the end of April.

The bright bluish green leaves are opposite and elliptic, anything up to 10 or 12 cm long.

The irregular flowers, on long, thin stalks on the top of the plant or at the ends of branches, are bright blue, often of two shades, and there are long purple anthers that bend elegantly upwards, like a butterfly’s antennae. Usually there are 4 petals of a light blue colour, with the fifth petal a darker, even violet, blue.

Black, fleshy fruits follow the flowering. The plant is usually heavily pruned, soon after it has finished flowering, to keep it more compact. This species will take rather cooler conditions than most tropical Clerodendra. It can be propagated either from seed or from softwood cuttings.

The flowers attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies.

dangerous 2Some people develop skin rashes and allergies after handling the plant.


Photographs taken at Picnic Bay 2009, 2010
Page last updated 26th March 2019