Heliotropium indicum

Indian heliotrope


Heliotropium indicum

L. 1753

pronounced: he-lee-oh-TROH-pee-um IN-dik-um

(Boraginaceae — the comfrey family)


common names: Indian heliotrope, Indian turnsole

Heliotropium is derived from two Greek words, 'ηλιος (helios), the sun, and τροπη (tropé), turning – turning to the sun. Indicum – from India.

The Indian Heliotrope is an annual, erect, branched plant native to Asia, but it is now a pan-tropical and pan-subtropical weed. It is usually found in the moist, rich soils of the tropical lowlands near rivers and lakes, on dikes and roadsides, and in waste places, fallow rice fields, pools, ditches, or muddy soils that dry out periodically. It does well in open sunny areas. It may also be found in moist sandy soils or in shallow swamps.

It can grow to a height of about 50 cm. It has a long taproot, and a hairy stem bearing alternate ovate to oblong-ovate leaves, the margin slightly wavy-crisped, 2.5 – 10 cm long, distinctly petiolate, with petioles up to 5 cm long. The leaves are hairy on the under surface.

It has small pale violet flowers with a yellow throat, that fade to a dull white, 5 stamens borne on a corolla tube, a terminal style, and a 4-lobed ovary. The petals are fused into a tube. The inflorescence of the Heliotropium species uncoils after the central flowers, that are the oldest, mature. The flowers are arranged only on one side of the inflorescence. The axis of the inflorescence is simple, or rarely once-forked. The season of bloom is so long that ripe seeds are falling from the bases of the spikes before the buds stop unfolding at the summits. The fruits are tiny, ovoid, ribbed, separating into 2 nutlets, each 2-celled, 3 – 3.5 mm long. It reproduces by seeds, which it produces prolifically.

Grazing animals do not touch the plant, and it robs the neighbouring plants of much food and moisture. In agriculture, the best means of control seems to be early, frequent and persistent cutting before the seeds can be produced.

In the Philippines, the plant is used as a herbal medicine. The juice extracted from the pounded leaves is used to treat wounds and skin ulcers. The juice is also used as eye-drops to treat conjunctivitis. The pounded leaves are used as a poultice for boils and other inflammations.


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 Picnic Bay and Nelly Bay 2008
Page last updated 12th January 2019