Justicia brandegeeana Wassh. & L.B.Sm.

First published in Fl. Ilustr. Catar. 1(Acantac.): 102 (1969)
This species is accepted
The native range of this species is Mexico to Central America. It is a subshrub or shrub and grows primarily in the seasonally dry tropical biome. It is used as a medicine and has environmental uses.


Extinction risk predictions for the world's flowering plants to support their conservation (2024). Bachman, S.P., Brown, M.J.M., Leão, T.C.C., Lughadha, E.N., Walker, B.E. https://nph.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/nph.19592

Predicted extinction risk: not threatened. Confidence: confident

Kew Species Profiles

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

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.

Species Profile
Geography and distribution

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


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.


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.


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.

Semi-arid environments.
Not evaluated according to IUCN Red List criteria.

None known.


Flora Zambesiaca Acanthaceae (part 2) by Iain Darbyshire, Kaj Vollesen and Ensermu Kelbessa

Morphology General Habit
Perennial or shrubby herb to 1 m; cystoliths present.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves ovate, apex acute, base cuneate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers
Flowers in subsessile or shortly pedunculate racemoid cymes from upper axils; bracts imbricate, to 2 cm long, red to purple or green, ovate, puberulous and ciliate; bracteoles similar to bracts.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx deeply divided into 5 lanceolate acute puberulous lobes to 5 mm long.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla white with reddish purple stripes on lower lip or whole lower lip red, to 3 cm long (along upper lip), with a hooded 2-lobed upper lip and spreading 3-lobed lower lip.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 2, held under upper lip; anthers bithecous, thecae at different height, both with flat white basal appendage.
Native of tropical America. Widely cultivated in all tropical and subtropical regions and as a pot plant in temperate regions.
Shrimp Plant.

Bernal, R., Gradstein, S.R. & Celis, M. (eds.). 2015. Catálogo de plantas y líquenes de Colombia. Instituto de Ciencias Naturales, Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Bogotá. http://catalogoplantasdecolombia.unal.edu.co

Cultivada en Colombia; Alt. 450 - 1500 m.; Andes, Llanura del Caribe.
Morphology General Habit

Biogeografic region: Andean, Caribbean. Elevation range: 450–1500 m a.s.l. Cultivated in Colombia. Colombian departments: Antioquia, Bogotá DC, Meta.
Habitat according IUCN Habitats Classification: forest and woodland, shrubland, artificial - terrestrial.


Ornamental, traditional medicine.

Use Environmental
Environmental uses.
Use Medicines
Medical uses.

Common Names

Shrimp Plant, Shrimp plant


  • Angiosperm Extinction Risk Predictions v1

    • Angiosperm Threat Predictions
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  • Catálogo de Plantas y Líquenes de Colombia

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  • Herbarium Catalogue Specimens

  • Kew Backbone Distributions

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Living Collection Database

    • Common Names from Plants and People Africa http://www.plantsandpeopleafrica.com/
  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    • The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants 2024. Published on the Internet at http://www.ipni.org and https://powo.science.kew.org/
    • © Copyright 2023 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Vascular Plants. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0
  • Kew Science Photographs

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  • Useful Plants and Fungi of Colombia

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