Callicarpa candicans

great woolly Malayan lilac


Callicarapa candicans

(Burm.f.) Hochr. 1934

pronounced: kalk-ee-KAR-puh KAN-dee-kanz

(Lamiaceae — the lavender family)

synonym — Callicarpa cana

L. 1771

pronounced: kal-ee-KAR-puh KAN-uh

synonym — Urtica candicans

Burm.f. 1768

pronounced: ERR-tik-uh KAN-dee-kanz


common names: great wooly Malayan lilac, purple-berried Malayan lilac

native 4Callicarpa means ‘beautiful fruit’ – Greek καλλος (kallos), beauty, and καρπος (carpos), fruit; candicans is Latin for ‘being whitish’.

Despite the common name, this plant is native to tropical parts of Australia, as well as to Malaysia, China, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam. The genus consists of shrubs or trees, a few of which are grown as garden ornamentals. Some species possess medicinal qualities; leaves of some are used to stupefy fish, and the bark of some is chewed as a substitute for betel nut.

This species can grow as a small tree (up to 30 cm in diameter and 5 or 6 m tall), but also flowers and fruits as a shrub. It is generally found on mountain slopes, along roadsides, and in open waste places. The trees photographed are by the roadside on the top of Nobby Head, on The Forts walk, and in the Gustav Creek vine forest in Nelly Bay.

The leaf blades are variable, about 3.5 – 18 cm long by 1.5 – 9 cm wide, with petioles 1.5 – 3.5 cm long, grooved on the upper surface. They are broadly elliptic in shape. There are usually 5 – 7 lateral veins on either side of the midrib. There are stellate hairs present on the leafy twigs, petioles, and both surfaces of the leaf blade, being quite abundant on the underside and much sparser on the upper surface, where they tend to be concentrated on the midrib and the lateral veins. Numerous pale yellow glands are visible on the underside of the leaf blade.

The flowers are in clusters. They are subsessile, the sepal minutely 4-toothed, measuring 1 – 1.5 mm long, glandular, star-shaped and hairy outside. The petal is mauve or violet, with tube 2 mm long, with broadly ovate lobes, measuring 3 – 3.5 mm long, with a few glands and exserted stamens. The ovary is spherical, hairless, glandular all over, with exserted style, and measuring 5 – 6 mm long.

The fruit is a drupe, depressed globular in shape, 2 – 3 mm in diameter, almost succulent, smooth, glandular, mauve, purple or deep red.

The tree is often cultivated in India, especially in West Bengal. The leaves, bark and root are medicinal, being used for the treatment of cuts and diarrhoea. Twigs are used as arrow poison and to stupefy fish.


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 at Picnic Bay 2013, Forts walk 2014, Nelly Bay 2015, 2016
Page last updated 26th October 2018