Celosia argentea

purple flamingo feather


Celosia argentea spicata 'Purple Flamingo Feather'

L. 1753

pronounced: kay-LOW-see-uh ah-GENT-ee-uh spick-AH-tuh

(Amaranthaceae — the amaranth family)


common names: purple flamingo feather, wheat celosia, Prince of Wales feathers

Celosia is a small genus of edible and ornamental plants. The generic is derived from the Greek κηλεος (kéleos), burning, referring to the flame-like inflorescences. C. argentea is the species most widely grown both as an ornamental and as a food crop. Its name of sokoyokoto in the Yoruba language of southern Nigeria means literally “the vegetable that makes your husband’s face rosy” – a wry joke shared among women in the marketplace.

What a spectacular plant this is! Few people who admire this plant in or gardens probably realize that it is edible, let alone that it is an important leafy vegetable in parts of tropical Africa. The fresh young leaves are mainly eaten in a mixed dish prepared from various greens, together with onion, eggplant, hot peppers, palm oil, and fish or meat. Peanut butter is sometimes added as a thickener. All of the ingredients are put into the same pot and boiled to make a soup.

This is an erect annual herb up to 2 m tall. The stem is ridged, glabrous, with up to 25 branches per plant, ascending.

The leaves are alternate, simple, without stipules; the petiole is indistinctly demarcated; the lamina ovate to lanceolate-oblong or narrowly linear, up to 15 – 20 cm by 7 – 9 cm, tapering at the base, acute to obtuse and shortly mucronate at the apex, entire, glabrous, pinnately veined.

The inflorescence is a dense, many-flowered spike, at first conical but becoming cylindrical, growing up to 20 cm long, bracteate. Normally it is silvery to pink, but in ornamental forms it is in many colours, and usually completely or partially sterile. The individual flowers are small, bisexual, regular, 5-merous; the tepals are free, narrowly elliptic-oblong. 6 – 10 mm long; the stamens are fused at the base; the ovary is superior, unicelled, the style filiform, up to 7 mm long; 2 or 3 stigmas that are very short.

The fruit is an ovoid to globose capsule 3 – 4 mm long, circumscissile, with only a few seeds. The seeds are lenticular, 1 – 1.5 mm long, black and shining, and shallowly reticulate.

The plant is used medicinally. In Kenya, the Masai use a liquid made from the leaves and flowers as a bodywash for convalescents, and they use the whole plant as a snakebite antidote. An extract from the roots is used to treat colic, eczema and gonorrhoea. In Ethiopia and the Congo the seeds are used as a medicine for diarrhoea, and in Ethiopia the flowers are used to treat dysentery and muscular pain. In China, an ointment made from the leaves is used to treat wounds, infected sores and skin eruptions. In both China and Japan seed extracts have been used in the treatment of eye diseases and hepatitis. In India the leaves are mixed with honey and applied to abscesses.

In the Congo, the plant is associated with witchcraft.


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 2019, Picnic Bay

Page last updated 4th June 2019