Skip to main content
You are here
Facebook icon
Pinterest icon
Twitter icon

Justicia brandegeeana (shrimp plant)

Justicia brandegeeana is commonly known as shrimp plant because of the colour and shrimp-like appearance of its inflorescence.

Pink shrimp-like flowers of shrimp plant

Justicia brandegeeana in the Botanischer Garten Freiburg, Germany

Species information

Scientific name: 

Justicia brandegeeana Wassh. & L.B.Sm.

Common name: 

shrimp plant

Conservation status: 

Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.

Habitat: 

Semi-arid environments.

Key Uses: 

Ornamental, traditional medicine.

Known hazards: 

None known.

Taxonomy

Subclass: 
Superorder: 
Asteranae
Order: 
Lamiales
Family: 
Acanthaceae
Genus: Justicia

About this species

There are around 600 species of Justicia distributed across the tropics and into the warmer parts of North America. Many are grown as ornamentals in tropical and subtropical gardens and as conservatory plants in temperate areas. The genus was named for James Justice (1698-1763), a passionate, though somewhat eccentric, Scottish horticulturist and writer.

Synonym: 

Beloperone guttata Brandegee, Calliaspidia guttata (Brandegee) Bremek., Drejerella guttata (Brandegee) Bremek.

Genus: 
Justicia

Discover more

Geography and distribution

Justicia brandegeeana is native to Mexico. It has naturalised in parts of Ecuador and Florida, USA. It is widely cultivated elsewhere.

Description

The shrimp plant is an evergreen shrubby perennial, reaching 1.5 m tall and wide with weak branching stems. The soft green leaves are ovate-elliptic (egg-shaped), usually 5–8 cm long and downy on the underside. Reddish-pink overlapping bracts (modified leaves) enclosing small white flowers are produced throughout the year. The five petals are united into a white two-lipped corolla-tube with mauve markings on the lower lip. The two stamens have dark mauve anthers. Cultivated forms may have bright yellow or lime green bracts.

Pollination is usually by hummingbirds.

Illustration from Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Illustration of Justicia brandegeeana as Beloperone guttata by Lilian Snelling (1941), taken from Curtis’s Botanical Magazine.

Curtis’s Botanical Magazine (Editor: Martyn Rix) provides an international forum of particular interest to botanists and horticulturists, plant ecologists and those with a special interest in botanical illustration.

Now well over 200 years old, the Magazine is the longest running botanical periodical featuring colour illustrations of plants. Each four-part volume contains 24 plant portraits reproduced from watercolour originals by leading international botanical artists. Detailed but accessible articles combine horticultural and botanical information, history, conservation and economic uses of the plants described.

Published for the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew by Wiley-Blackwell Publishing.

Find out more about Curtis's Botanical Magazine

Uses

The Huastec people of Mexico used Justicia brandegeeana as a traditional medicine for treating a variety of ailments, including dysentery and other gastrointestinal disorders and treating wounds. Today, J. brandegeeana is widely cultivated as an ornamental throughout the tropics and subtropics and as a greenhouse plant in cooler climates. It has received an Award of Garden Merit from the Royal Horticultural Society.

Cultivation

Shrimp plants thrive in containers and survive well as houseplants with a long flowering season. They can live for many years but need to be pinched back continually to avoid the plant becoming too tall and leggy. Propagation is by stem cuttings in spring or by division.

This species at Kew

Shrimp plant can be found in the Palm House.

Pressed and dried specimens of Justicia brandegeeana are held in Kew’s Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world by appointment. The details of some of these can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

References and credits

Alcorn, J. B. (1984). Huastec Mayan Ethnobotany. University of Texas Press, Austin, Texas.

Brummitt, R. K. & Taylor, N. P. (1990). To correct or not to correct? Taxon 39: 298-306.

Brummitt, R. K. & Powell, C. E. (1996). Authors of Plant Names. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.

Graham, V. A. W. (1988). Delimitation and infra-generic classification of Justicia (Acanthaceae). Kew Bulletin 43: 551-624.

Huxley, A., Griffiths, M. & Levy, M. (eds) (1992). The New Royal Horticultural Society Dictionary of Gardening. Vol. 2. Macmillan Press, London.

Mabberley, D. J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.

Sousa Sánchez, M. (1969). Las colecciones botánicas de C. A. Purpus en México, período 1898-1925. University of California Publications in Botany 51: 1-36.

The Plant List (2010). Justicia brandegeeana. Available online (accessed 8 August 2011).

Kew Science Editor: Martyn Rix
Kew contributors: Iain Darbyshire and Steve Davis
Copyediting: Malin Rivers

Although every effort has been taken to ensure that the information contained in these pages is reliable and complete, notes on hazards, edibility and suchlike included here are recorded information and do not constitute recommendations. No responsibility will be taken for readers’ own actions.

Full website terms and conditions

Related Links

Courses at Kew

Kew offers a variety of specialist training courses in horticulture, conservation and plant science.

Students learn about plant taxonomy and identification

Why People Need Plants

A compelling book from Kew Publishing that explores the crucial role that plants play in the everyday lives of all of us.

image of book cover