Justicia brandegeeana

shrimp plant


Justicia brandegeeana

Wassh. & L.B.Sm. 1969

pronounced: juss-TEE-see-uh bran-dij-ee-AH-nuh

(Acanthaceae — the black-eyed Susan family family)

synonym — Beloperone guttata

Brandegee 1912

pronounced: bell-op-er-OH-nee goo-TAH-tuh

common names: shrimp plant, false hop

Justicia is named for James Justice (1698–1763), Scottish botanist and horticulturist, who studied bulb-growing techniques in Holland and did much to encourage the use of composts in British gardens. Brandegeeana is for Townshend Stith Brandegee (1843–1925) or his wife Mary Katharine Layne Curran Brandegee (1844–1920), American botanists. This was an interesting pair. Townshend was a civil engineer and surveyor as well as a highly respected botanist, and was employed to do the survey of southwestern Colorado in 1875. From this he published The Flora of Southwestern Colorado in 1876. His wife was a physician and botanist who published a flora of Yosemite and became, in 1883, the first woman Curator of the California Academy of Sciences Herbarium. They married in 1889, and spent their honeymoon hiking from San Diego to San Francisco, collecting plants. The Brandegees are honoured in the names of about 120 plants in the USA: those dated before their marriage were named for Townshend, and those after were probably named for both of them. Mary is also honoured in the names of several dozen plants that refer either to her maiden name of Layne, or to her first marriage name of Curran. The couple left their library, and their personal collection of over 75,000 plants, to the University of California.

In the synonym, Beloperone is from the Greek βελος (belos), an arrow, and περονη (perone), something pointed, and guttata from the Latin gutta, a drop, a little bit.

The Shrimp Plant is a native of Brazil and Mexico. It is a densely branched subshrub that grows to a height of about 60 – 100 cm, and has oval dark green leaves, about 5 – 8 cm long. These arch in opposed pairs, and are rather like avocado leaves. The young stems and the undersides of the leaves are soft and downy. The plant bears spikes of white flowers shaped like long tubes that open out into two lips at the top. The flowers are surrounded by either brownish rose or yellow bracts that persist, and give them the appearance of boiled shrimps. There are also cultivars available with bright red and lime green bracts, and a variegated variety with cream-blotched leaves. In temperate climates, it is a popular plant for window gardens and greenhouses: here, it is best grown outdoors, though it does not much like the noonday sun. It is hardly necessary to say that in southern Florida it has escaped cultivation and has become naturalized!

Young plants may be kept bushy by pinching off, and old plants should be pruned hard back in spring. All species of Justicia grow quickly, and may form buds in the first year. These are probably best removed, as blooming too young impedes the development of a healthy mature plant.

This plant is quite easy to grow from cuttings at any time, and blooms almost continuously for most of the year. In cold climates frosts kill it to the ground, but it comes back in spring.


Photographs taken in Picnic Bay 2010, 2011
Page last updated 24th January 2019