Long green oval shaped leaves on the henna tree
Lawsonia inermis

Henna tree

Family: Lythraceae
Other common names: حناء (Arabic), mvumanyuki (Bajuni), gomojia, komochi (Boni), elm, halam, urrurr (Borana), 散沫花(Chinese simplified) henovník bezbranný (Czech), mosriya (Ilwana), pacar kuku (Indonesian), henné (Italian), シコウカ (Japanese), durrur (Orma), kapaeamenion (Pokot), hena (Portuguese), hanlan (Rendille), Лавсония неколючая (Russian), ilgerei (Samburu), allan, elan (Somali), alheña, reseda (Spanish), mkokoa muhina (Swahili), เทียนกิ่งขาว (Thai)
IUCN Red List status: Least Concern

It’s thought that using dried leaves from the henna tree as a temporary skin dye dates back nearly 4000 years.

Intricate patterns are painted onto the skin using a henna leaf paste in numerous traditions, including Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism.

The henna tree is found all across Asia, as well as northern regions of Africa and Australia.

Along with skin, henna is used to dye hair and fabrics.

As a member of the Lythraceae family, henna is closely related to the pomegranate.

Henna grows as a small tree or shrub, between 2 to 8 metres in height. The leaves are smooth, a rounded lance-shape and grow in pairs on the stem which has spiked ends.

Henna flowers are small, around 3 mm across, with white oval petals. The fruits are small, brown capsules that split open to reveal many seeds.

Read the scientific profile for the henna tree

Beauty and cosmetics

Dye made from henna leaves has been used for thousands of years as temporary skin art.

Powder from henna leaves can be used as a temporary hair dye.


Henna dye is worn by people of the Muslim faith. Men wear it in their beards, and women dye their nails.

Henna skin art is used in wedding rituals in a number of cultures, including Sikhism, Hinduism and Islam.

Materials and fuels

Powdered henna leaves are used to dye fabrics.

  • The scientific name of the genus Lawson was given to the henna tree by Carl Linneaus in honour of his friend Isaac Lawson.

  • The species name inermis means ‘toothless’, referring to the plants lack of thorns.

A map of the world showing where henna tree is native and introduced to
Native: Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Oman, Pakistan, Panamá, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Tanzania, Yemen
Introduced: Algeria, Andaman Is., Aruba, Assam, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Benin, Burkina, Cameroon, Cayman Is., Central African Repu, Chad, Comoros, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Ecuador, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Gulf of Guinea Is., Guyana, Haiti, Iraq, Ivory Coast, Jamaica, Jawa, KwaZulu-Natal, Laos, Lebanon-Syria, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Maldives, Mali, Marianas, Mauritania, Mexico Southwest, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Netherlands Antilles, New Guinea, Nicobar Is., Niger, Nigeria, Palestine, Puerto Rico, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Tadzhikistan, Togo, Trinidad-Tobago, Tunisia, Turks-Caicos Is., Uganda, Venezuela, Venezuelan Antilles, Vietnam, Windward Is., Zaïre

Grows in semi-arid zones and tropical areas

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The geographical areas mentioned on this page follow the World Geographical Scheme for Recording Plant Distributions (WGSRPD) developed by Biodiversity Information Standards (TDWG).