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Houttuynia cordata was first described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg in his Flora Japonica in 1784 from material collected in Japan. It is also common in the wetter and warmer parts of China, where it is valued for its many uses. There are two distinct chemotypes: the Japanese type has an orange scent, whereas the Chinese type has a smell resembling coriander.

Houttuynia cordata (heart-leaved houttuynia)

[KSP]

Kew Species Profiles

General Description
Heart-leaved houttuynia is a creeping herb with fleshy stems and a scent that has been described as lemon, sandalwood, coriander or raw fish.

Houttuynia cordata was first described by the Swedish naturalist Carl Peter Thunberg in his Flora Japonica in 1784 from material collected in Japan. It is also common in the wetter and warmer parts of China, where it is valued for its many uses. There are two distinct chemotypes: the Japanese type has an orange scent, whereas the Chinese type has a smell resembling coriander.

Heart-leaved houttuynia is grown as an ornamental and groundcover. In many parts of its range it is grown as a salad crop or as a medicinal herb. The tender shoots and leaves are eaten raw or cooked. In Nepal, juice from the roots is used for treating indigestion and applied to the skin to treat wounds and skin diseases. The aerial parts are used medicinally in both China and Japan. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), they are used to treat respiratory tract infections, inflammation of the urinary tract and carbuncles and sores.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

Houttuynia cordata has a wide native range, from Nepal and India in the west, through China and Indochina to Japan in the east, and south via Thailand to the mountains of Java (Indonesia). It is found from near sea-level to an elevation of 2,500 m. It has been introduced to Australia, New Zealand, some Pacific islands and North America and is frequently considered a weed.

Description

Houttuynia cordata is a creeping herb 30-60 cm high, with thin, spreading rhizomes. The stems are green or sometimes purplish red, and either smooth or pubescent on the nodes. The lower parts of the leaf stalks form a sheath round the stem. The leaves are usually heart-shaped, 4-10 cm long and 2.5-6.0 cm wide, and purple underneath. The flowers are small, crowded into a short spike around 2 cm long, with four white, petal-like bracts at the base. The stamens usually degenerate, and the fruits are apomictic, i.e. they develop seeds without being fertilized.

Apart from the wild green-leaved form, there are cultivars with red, pink, golden and white leaves (such as 'Chameleon', 'Flame', 'Joker's Gold', 'Sunshine' and the 'Variegata group'), and one with extra petal-like bracts ('Flore Pleno').

Threats and conservation

This species is widespread and not threatened. There are concerns that it could become invasive in the future because it spreads quickly and is difficult to control once introduced into a favourable area. It therefore may pose a potential threat to natural habitats.

Millennium Seed Bank: Seed storage

The Millennium Seed Bank Partnership aims to save plant life worldwide, focusing on plants under threat and those of most use in the future. Seeds are dried, packaged and stored at a sub-zero temperature in Kew's seed bank vault at Wakehurst.

Description of seeds: Average 1,000 seed weight = 0.04 g

Number of seed collections stored in the Millennium Seed Bank: Two

This species at Kew

Heart-leaved houttuynia can be found growing in the Rock Garden and the Evolution House. It can also be seen at the Water Gardens at Wakehurst.

Pressed and dried specimens of Houttuynia cordata are held in Kew's Herbarium, where they are available to researchers from around the world, by appointment. The details of one of these specimens, including an image, can be seen online in the Herbarium Catalogue.

Identifying plants in products

Since the early 1990s there has been a large increase in the diversity of plant-based products traded worldwide for making cosmetics, herbal medicines (especially traditional Chinese medicines), functional foods, potpourri, colouring agents and pet products.

Kew is investigating these using a range of morphological as well as chemical and DNA fingerprinting methods to identify species of plants being traded and to study whether plant-derived products contain the appropriate range of compounds associated with their proposed use.

Over 1,000 species and over 1,500 plant extracts have been studied so far. Although in most cases the correct species has been traded, there have been a few incidents when incorrect species or poor-quality substitutes have been sold. Other issues relate to the over-exploitation of some species, especially those that are wild collected and where there is a need to develop sustainable harvesting practises to avoid adulterants or poor-quality material entering the trade.

Find out more about this research

Distribution
China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Thailand
Ecology
Stream edges, wet woodlands, damp grassy places, paddy field margins, roadsides.
Conservation
Widespread and common; not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.
Hazards

None known.

[KSP]
Use
Ornamental, medicinal, food. It is an official food and healthfood in China.

Native to:

Assam, Bangladesh, Cambodia, China North-Central, China South-Central, China Southeast, East Himalaya, Hainan, Japan, Korea, Myanmar, Nepal, Ogasawara-shoto, Taiwan, Thailand, Tibet, Vietnam, West Himalaya

Introduced into:

Alabama, Austria, Costa Rica, Czechoslovakia, Germany, New York

English
Heart-leaved houttuynia

Houttuynia cordata Thunb. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Wallich, N. [Cat. no. 813], Nepal K000639582
s.coll. [Cat. no. 813], India K001111948
s.coll. [Cat. no. 813], India K001111949

First published in Kongl. Vetensk. Acad. Nya Handl. 4: 149 (1783)

Accepted by

  • Adolphy, K. & al. (2021). Beiträge zur Flora Nordhein-Westfalens aus dem Jahr 2020 Jahrbuch des Bochumer Botanischen Vereins 12: 199-278.
  • Chang, C.S., Kim, H. & Chang, K.S. (2014). Provisional checklist of vascular plants for the Korea peninsula flora (KPF): 1-660. DESIGNPOST.
  • Dy Phon, P. (2000). Dictionnaire des plantes utilisées au Cambodge: 1-915. Chez l'auteur, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  • Govaerts, R.H.A. (2011). World checklist of selected plant families published update Facilitated by the Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Hammel, B.E., Grayum, M.H., Herrera, C. & Zamora, N. (eds.) (2015). Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica. Volumen VIII. Dicotyledóneas (Sabiaceae-Zygophyllaceae) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 131: 1-657. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Kobayashi, S. & Ono, M. (1987). A Revised List of Vascular Plants Indigenous and Introduced to the Bonin (Ogasawara) and the Volcano (Kazan) Islands Ogasawara Research 13: 1-55.
  • Kral, R., Diamond, A.R., Ginzbarg, S.L., Hansen, C.J., Haynes, R.R., Keener, B.R., Lelong, M.G., Spaulding, D.D. & Woods, M. (2011). Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Alabama: 1-112. Botanical reseach institute of Texas.
  • Kumar, S. (2012). Herbaceous flora of Jaunsar-Bawar (Uttarkhand), India: enumerations Phytotaxonomy 12: 33-56.
  • Leti, M., Hul, S., Fouché, J.-G., Cheng, S.K. & David, B. (2013). Flore photographique du Cambodge: 1-589. Éditions Privat, Toulouse.
  • Lustyk, P. & Doležal, J. (eds.) (2018). Additamenta ad floram Reipublicae Bohemicae - XVI Zprávy Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 53: 31-112.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • Stöhr, O. & al. (2012). Beiträge zur Flora von Österreich, IV Stapfia 97: 53-136.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542. New York Botanical Garden.

Literature

Kew Species Profiles

  • Bown, D. (1995). The Royal Horticultural Society Encyclopedia of Herbs & their Uses. Dorling Kindersley, London.
  • Mabberley, D.J. (2008). Mabberley’s Plant-book: a Portable Dictionary of Plants, their Classification and Uses. 3rd edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
  • Manandhar, N.P. (2002). Plants and People of Nepal. Timber Press, Portland, Oregon.
  • World Checklist of Selected Plant Families (2010). Houttuynia cordata. The Board of Trustees of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.
  • Xia Nianhe & Brach A.R. (1999). Houttuynia cordata. Flora of China 4: 108-109
  • Y. Wen Xu, Qian Rong Cai, Dan Zhao & Wei Wu (2011). Monoterpene composition of flower and bract from Houttuynia cordata. Journal of Medicinal Plants Research 5: 3883-3886.
  • Zheng Yin Zhu & Shi Liang Zhang (2001). Houttuynia emeiensis. Bulletin of Botanical Research Harbin 21: 1-2.

Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Adolphy, K. & al. (2021). Beiträge zur Flora Nordhein-Westfalens aus dem Jahr 2020 Jahrbuch des Bochumer Botanischen Vereins 12: 199-278.
  • Dy Phon, P. (2000). Dictionnaire des plantes utilisées au Cambodge: 1-915. Chez l'auteur, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
  • Hammel, B.E., Grayum, M.H., Herrera, C. & Zamora, N. (eds.) (2015). Manual de Plantas de Costa Rica. Volumen VIII. Dicotyledóneas (Sabiaceae-Zygophyllaceae) Monographs in Systematic Botany from the Missouri Botanical Garden 131: 1-657. Missouri Botanical Garden.
  • Kobayashi, S. & Ono, M. (1987). A Revised List of Vascular Plants Indigenous and Introduced to the Bonin (Ogasawara) and the Volcano (Kazan) Islands Ogasawara Research 13: 1-55.
  • Kral, R., Diamond, A.R., Ginzbarg, S.L., Hansen, C.J., Haynes, R.R., Keener, B.R., Lelong, M.G., Spaulding, D.D. & Woods, M. (2011). Annotated checklist of the vascular plants of Alabama: 1-112. Botanical reseach institute of Texas.
  • Lustyk, P. & Doležal, J. (eds.) (2018). Additamenta ad floram Reipublicae Bohemicae - XVI Zprávy Ceské Botanické Spolecnosti 53: 31-112.
  • Mostaph, M.K. & Uddin, S.B. (2013). Dictionary of plant names of Bangladesh, Vasc. Pl.: 1-434. Janokalyan Prokashani, Chittagong, Bangladesh.
  • Stöhr, O. & al. (2012). Beiträge zur Flora von Österreich, IV Stapfia 97: 53-136.
  • Werier, D. (2017). Catalogue of the Vascular plants of New York state Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club 27: 1-542. New York Botanical Garden.

Art and Illustrations in Digifolia
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and http://apps.kew.org/wcsp/
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0

Kew Science Photographs
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

Kew Species Profiles
Kew Species Profiles
http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/3.0