Clerodendrum incisum

musical note plant


Rotheca incisa

(Klotzsch) Steane & Mabb. 1998

pronounced: roth-EE-kuh in-KY-suh


(Lamiaceae — the lavender family)

synonym — Clerodendrum macrosiphon

Hook.f. 1883

pronounced: kler-oh-DEN-drum mak-roh-SY-fon

synonym —Clerodendrum incisum

Klotzsch 1861

pronounced: kler-oh-DEN-drum in-KY-sum

common names: musical note plant, morning kiss, witch's tongue

Rotheca is the Latinized form of a Malayalam word, 'small teak'. Clerodendrum comes from two Greek words, κληρος (kléros), fate, or chance, and δενδρον (dendron), a tree; incisum is Latin for ‘cut’. In the synonyms, macrosiphon comes from the Greek μακρος (macros), long, and σιφων (siphon), a tube. One look at the opened flowers will explain why!

This is a small bushy shrub with small leaves, originating in Nigeria. It grows up to about 1 m tall and a similar width. The leaves are usually 4 or 5 cm long, and a dull green. Some leaves have smooth, entire margins, and others have seemingly random serrations.

The white flowers form delicate shapes with their long tubular and rounded structure, and appear in large masses. The unopened flowers resemble musical notes in the bud shape, and then open to showy flowers with red stamens. As with many of the Clerodendrum species, the flower has outrageously long stamens that add to the flower’s interest, as they extend outwards about 4 cm beyond the flower’s corolla. The 10 cm long trumpet-shaped flower expands amazingly from a little nubbin, and for a time resembles a musical quaver ♪. As the flower stretches, the round end of the note splits and flattens into a corolla resembling a small white butterfly. Unfortunately the flowers, which don’t have a fragrance, are short-lived, lasting usually only for a couple of days, and they tend to droop in rain. There are usually repeated bursts of flowering during the spring and summer, on about a monthly basis.

The plant may be used as a short hedge, in small groupings, or as a single specimen plant. This is a perfect landscape plant, except for the fact that it sometimes sheds its leaves copiously. It is easy to grow, blooms in both full sun or shade, and tolerates a certain amount of drought. It probably does best in afternoon shade. For the best floral display, a light pruning is desirable after flowering.

Propagation may be done from either herbaceous or woody cuttings, or from seed. For the last, allow the seed pods to dry on the plant, before breaking them open to collect the seeds.

Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2008, 2012
Page last updated 12th November 2018