Lepidagathis Willd.

This genus is accepted, and its native range is Tropics & Subtropics.


M. Thulin et al. Flora of Somalia, Vol. 1-4 [updated 2008] https://plants.jstor.org/collection/FLOS

Morphology General Habit
Perennial herbs or small shrubs
Morphology Leaves
Leaves entire
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Flowers solitary, in heads or spike-like inflorescences
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx unequally 5-lobed or 4-lobed with lower lobe 2-fid, upper and lower lobes large, lateral lobes small, narrowly lanceolate to linear
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla 2-lipped, upper lip 2-lobed, lower lip 3-lobed; tube cylindrical in the lower portion, widened in the upper portion
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 4, the 2 lower with 2-celled anthers, the 2 upper with 1- or 2-celled anthers
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule 2–4-seeded
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds with hygroscopic hairs.
Some 140 species in tropical and warm temperate regions.


Kameyama, C. (2008). New species, nomenclatural changes and lectotypifications in Neotropical Lepidagathis Willd. (Acanthaceae). Kew Bulletin 63: 565. https://doi.org/10.1007/s12225-008-9066-2

Morphology General Habit
Species of Lepidagathis are small decumbent or erect subshrubs, or erect to sprawling shrubs. Decumbent subshrubs usually have adventitious roots at the nodes that touch the substrate. Some erect unbranched subshrubs are hemicryptophytes; they have a short, thick, partially underground shoot with cataphylls from which grow adventitious roots and aerial shoots. These aerial branches are annual and die after flowering and fruiting.
Morphology Leaves
The leaves, as in many Acanthaceae, are decussate and in most of the species evidently anisophyllous (leaves born at the same node having different sizes). This feature is also present in many unrelated species of Acanthaceae (Brummit 1989; Manktelow 1996). In some species differentiated leaves also occur at the base of the stem or close to the inflorescences. The leaves near the main florescence can be different from the others in shape and venation pattern and usually are intermediate between normal leaves and bracts.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium
Lepidagathis has two or four fertile stamens, the anterior anthers are always bithecous, the posterior, when present, can be mono- or bithecous or reduced to staminodia. Bentham (1876) used the number of thecae of the anthers to distinguish Lophostachys from Lepidagathis. All species described under Lophostachys presented monothecous posterior anthers, but among the species described under Lepidagathis there are also some with this character, as noted by Burkill & Clarke (1899) in African species; these authors used it to distinguish two groups in Lepidagathis. The complete reduction of the ventral anthers was found in one species from Madagascar (Lepidagathis grandidieri Benoist) and one from Mexico (L. uxpanapensis), where the filaments are still present as staminodia, and some species with decussate flowers. In bithecous anthers the thecae may be the same size or not, and they may be parallel or divergent.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
In Lepidagathis calyces can be very conspicuous, large and colourful, probably helping to attract pollinators, mainly in species described under Lophostachys. The zygomorphic calyx is formed by five unequal sepals, the lateral ones narrower, and very often shorter than the others. The posterior or upper sepal is wider and is generally acrodromous or parallelodromous in the Neotropical species. The two anterior sepals are generally fused to each other to an extent greater than with the lateral sepals and each one can be equal or dimidiate forming a structure (segment) that seems to be a single sepal. Zygomorphic calyces seem to have evolved independently in different groups, since they are present in many unrelated genera. The degree of anterior sepal fusion was one of the features used to distinguish Lophostachys from Lepidagathis (Nees 1847a, b; Bentham 1876) and Lepidagathis from Teliostachya (Bremekamp 1960). Neotropical secundiflorous species always have dimidiate dorsal sepals which are basally fused for at least 1/3 of their length. The Mexican species Lepidagathis chiapensis (Acosta) Kameyama and L. uxpanapensis (Acosta) Kameyama present these sepals almost completely fused. The lateral sepals are much narrower and shorter than the others, and generally linear. In all secundiflorous Neotropical species and in many Paleotropical species the lateral sepals are internal to the ventral and dorsal sepals being overlapped by them, as in Barleria (Balkwill & Balkwill 1997).
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
The corolla is always bilabiate. The upper lip is entire or shallowly bilobed, and the lower lip is trilobate. Size, shape and colour of corollas are evidently related to pollination. Most of the species have relatively small corollas, between 4 – 20 mm long, with a distinct tube and throat area, the lower lip spreading, white, lilac or pinkish with purple, purplish-red or yellow markings; they are probably pollinated by small or medium-sized insects. Many Neotropical, some Malagasy, and a few African and Asian species have larger corollas, between 2.4 – 6 cm long, generally red, purple-red or white. In Old World species, which are probably pollinated by butterflies, the corolla tube is long, straight and narrow. In Neotropical species, pollinated by hummingbirds, it is wide and curved. The showy corollas are always associated with showy, usually coloured, calyces. All corollas of the secundiflorous species that have been examined have inside the tube, around the base of the style, a ring of long, straight hairs that interweave with a similar ring present at the base of the style. These hairs probably have a protective function.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium
The gynoecium is very uniform among Lepidagathis species. Each locule of the ovary has two ovules; the stigma is subcapitate and shallowly bilobed. At the base, the nectariferous disk is cupulate and covers one quarter to almost half of the ovary. At the base of the style there is a ring of long, straight hairs.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Pollen
The study of pollen grains of ten species of Lepidagathis (Cruz-Barros et al., pers. comm.) and comparison with literature (Raj 1961; Huang 1972; Rowbik & Moreno 1991; Daniel 1998; Scotland & Vollesen 2000) showed that, except for variation in size and shape from subprolate to prolate, pollen grains in Lepidagathis are very uniform. The pollen is 3-colporate, reticulate, heterobrochate, the lumina are verrucate, pilate or baculate and the lumina adjacent to the colpi, at the poles and the centre of mesolcopi are smaller.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
As in other species of subtribe Barlerineae, the capsule outline is oblong, elliptic to ovate, apex acute to acuminate, subquadrangular, with relatively thin walls and thick septum, mostly with four seeds, sometimes two. In Lepidagathis. cristata the capsule is indehiscent, the walls are membranaceous, when moist the walls soften and eventually rupture, releasing the seeds.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Lepidagathis sensu lato has simple (thyrse or spike) or compound indeterminate inflorescences (polytelic), with three basic types of unit, according to Weberling (1989): (a) thyrse, with dichasia of up to 5 flowers as partial fluorescences, as in Lepidagathis alopecuroides (Vahl.) R. Br. ex Griseb. and some other species described under Teliostachya; (b) spikes with decussate flowers, as in Lepidagathis riedeliana Nees and a few other Neotropical and African species; (c) secundiflorous spikes with two rows of sterile bracts and two rows of fertile bracts; the bracts, except the basal, are alternate. This type is present in most species of Lepidagathis.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
The seeds are lenticular and have hygroscopic trichomes that expand when moist; this type of trichome has evolved independently in unrelated groups of Acanthaceae (Scotland et al. 1995; Manktelow et al. 2001; McDade et al. 2005).


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

Morphology General Habit
Perennial herbs and subshrubs.
Morphology Stem
Stems 4-angular to subterete.
Morphology Leaves
Leaves evergreen or deciduous, opposite-decussate, sessile or base decurrent into petiole, blade often with minute sunken glands on lower surface; cystoliths numerous, ± conspicuous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescences of unilateral (scorpioid) fasciculate to spiciform cymes, axillary and/or terminal, often compounded into a dense synflorescence, rarely a dichasial thyrse or flowers solitary; bract pairs equal to dimorphic, free, sterile bracts in unilateral cymes typically imbricate and subtending flowers, fertile bracts and bracteoles usually adpressed to calyx; bracteoles paired, (sub)equal, free.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx divided almost to base, unequally 5-lobed, posterior lobe broader than remaining lobes, anterior pair sometimes partially fused, lateral (inner) pair linear-lanceolate.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla bilabiate; tube cylindrical in lower portion, throat campanulate, base of throat ± densely hairy within; upper lip hooded, straight or arcuate, apex shortly bilobed or shallowly emarginate; lower lip with apex 3-lobed, palate upraised with a central furrow.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens 4, didynamous, filaments arising from near base of corolla throat; anterior pair of stamens longer, bithecous, thecae at an equal height or offset; posterior pair shorter, monothecous or bithecous.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Ovary
Ovary bilocular, 1 or 2 ovules per locule; style filiform; stigma capitate-bilobed or one lobe expanded and spoon-shaped.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Capsule compressed, 2-seeded, face then ovate, or 4-seeded, face then oblong-elliptic, sometimes with a short sterile apical beak, placental base inelastic.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Seeds
Seeds held on retinacula, discoid or flattened-triangular, clothed in hygroscopic hairs.
A genus of around 100 species with a tropical and subtropical distribution.

Native to:

Andaman Is., Angola, Argentina Northwest, Assam, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Borneo, Botswana, Brazil North, Brazil Northeast, Brazil South, Brazil Southeast, Brazil West-Central, Burkina, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Central African Repu, Chad, China South-Central, China Southeast, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cuba, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, East Himalaya, Ecuador, El Salvador, Eritrea, Ethiopia, French Guiana, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Hainan, Haiti, Honduras, India, Ivory Coast, Jawa, Kenya, KwaZulu-Natal, Laos, Leeward Is., Lesser Sunda Is., Liberia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaya, Mali, Maluku, Mauritania, Mexico Central, Mexico Gulf, Mexico Southeast, Mexico Southwest, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, New Guinea, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Northern Provinces, Oman, Pakistan, Panamá, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Solomon Is., Somalia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Taiwan, Tanzania, Thailand, Trinidad-Tobago, Uganda, Venezuela, Vietnam, West Himalaya, Windward Is., Yemen, Zambia, Zaïre, Zimbabwe

Lepidagathis Willd. appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Ule, E. [5851], Brazil K001032842
Ule, E. [9787], Peru K001032843
Wallich, N. [Cat. no. s.n.], Myanmar K001132509

First published in Sp. Pl., ed. 4, 3: 400 (1800)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41597-021-00997-6 Scientific Data 8: 215.


Kew Bulletin

  • Acosta, S. (1985). Algunas espécies interessantes de la família Acanthaceae en México. Phytologia 57: 249 – 260.
  • Balkwill, M. J. & Balkwill, K. (1997). Delimitation and infra-generic classification of Barleria (Acanthaceae). Kew Bull. 52: 535 – 573.
  • Benoist, R. (1911). Les genres Lepidagathis et Lophostachys sont-ils distincts? Notul. Syst. (Paris) 2: 139 – 144.
  • Bentham, G. (1876). Acanthaceae. In: G. Bentham & W. J. Hooker (eds.), Genera Plantarum vol. 2: 1060 – 1122. Reeve & Co., Williams & Norgate, London.
  • Brako, L. & Wasshausen, D. C. (1993). Acanthaceae. In: L. Brako & J. L. Zarucchi (eds.), Catalogue of the Flowering Plants and Gymnosperms of Peru: 2 – 15. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis.
  • Bremekamp, C. E. B. (1938). Notes on the Acanthaceae of Surinam. Recueil Trav. Bot. Néerl. 35: 129 – 176.
  • Brummit, R. K. (1989). Two anisophyllous species of Justicia (Acanthaceae) from East Africa. Kew Bull. 45: 281 – 285.
  • Burkill, I. H. & Clarke, C. B. (1899). Acanthaceae. In: W. T. T. Dyer (ed.), Flora of Tropical Africa v. 5: 2 – 192. L. Reeve & Co. London.
  • Clarke, C. B. (1885). Acanthaceae. In: J. D. Hooker (ed.), Flora of British India vol. 4: 513 – 558. L. Reeve & Co. London.
  • Daniel, T. F. (1993). A Synopsis of Lophostachys (Acanthaceae) in Mexico and Central America. Selbyana 14: 64 – 70.
  • Donnell Smith, J. (1901). Undescribed plants from Guatemala and other Central American Republics XXII. Bot. Gaz. 31: 109 – 125.
  • Ezcurra, C. (1993). Acanthaceae. In: A. Cabrera (ed.), Flora de la Provincia de Jujuy, parte IX: 278 – 359. INTA, Buenos Aires.
  • Gibson, D. N. (1974). Flora of Guatemala. Acanthaceae. Fieldiana Bot. 21: 328 – 461.
  • Hedrén, M. (1993). A new species of Lepidagathis (Acanthaceae) from central Somalia and the demise of Lindauea. Nordic J. Bot. 13 (5): 515 – 518.
  • Huang, T. C. (1972). Pollen Floras of Taiwan. National Taiwan University. Botany Department Press. Taipei.
  • Leonard, E. C. (1951). The Acanthaceae of Colombia. Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 31: 1 – 781.
  • Lindau, G. (1895). Acanthaceae. In: A. Engler & K. Prantl (eds), Die Natürlichen Pflanzenfamilien nebst ihren Gattungen und wichtigeren Arten, insbesondere den Nutzflanzen, unter Mitwirkung zahlreicher hervorragender Fachgelehrten begründet Teil 4 abt. 3b: 274 – 354. Leipzig.
  • Manktelow, M. (1996). Phaulopsis (Acanthaceae) — a monograph. Symb. Bot. Upsal. 31: 1 – 184.
  • McDade, L. A., Daniel, T. F., Kiel, C. A. & Vollesen, K. (2005). Phylogenetic relationships among Acantheae (Acanthaceae): Major lineages present contrasting patterns of molecular evolution and morphological differentiation. Syst. Bot. 30: 834 – 862.
  • Nees, C. G. (1832). Acanthaceae. In: N. Wallich (ed.), Plantae asiaticae rariores v. 3: 70 – 117. Treuttel & Würz. London.
  • Pohl, J. E. (1831). Plantarum Brasiliae: icones et descriptione vol. 2, pars 3. Vienna.
  • Raj, B. (1961). Pollen morphological studies in the Acanthaceae. Grana 3: 3 – 108.
  • Rowbik, D. W. & Moreno, P. J. E. (1991). Pollen and spores of Barro Colorado Island. Monogr. Syst. Bot. Missouri Bot. Gard. 36: 1 – 268.
  • Scotland, R. W., Sweere, J. A., Reeves, P. A. & Olmstead, R. G. (1995). Higher-level systematics of Acanthaceae determined by chloroplast DNA sequences. Amer. J. Bot. 82: 266 – 275.
  • Wasshausen, D. C. (1995). Acanthaceae. Pp. 335 – 374. In: J. A. Steyermark, P. E. Berry & B. K. Holst (eds.), Flora of the Venezuelan Guyana v. 2: Pteridophytes, Spermatophytes: Acanthaceae – Araceae. Timber Press, Portland.
  • Weberling, F. (1989). Morphology of Flowers and Inflorescences. Cambridge University Press.
  • Willdenow, C. L. (1800). Species Plantarum 4 ed. vol. 3. Berlin.
  • ____ & Vollesen, K. (2000). Classification of Acanthaceae. Kew Bull. 55: 513 – 589.
  • ____ & Wood, J. R. I. (2004). Acanthaceae of Bolivia. Contr. U.S. Natl. Herb. 49: 1 – 152.
  • ____ (1847a). Acanthaceae. In: K. F. P. von Martius & A. G. Eichler (eds.), Flora Brasiliensis 9: 1 – 164; tab. 1 – 31. Berlin.
  • ____ (1847b). Acanthaceae. In: A. L. P. P. de Candolle (ed.), Prodomus Systematis Naturalis Regni Vegetabilis vol. 11: 46 – 519. Treuttel & Würz. Paris.
  • ____ (1959). The Machris Brazilian expedition. Botany: Phanerogamae, Acanthaceae. Contr. Sci. 32: 3 – 19.
  • ____ (1960). New Bornean Acanthaceae. Blumea 10: 151 – 175.
  • ____ (1965). Delimitation and subdivision of the Acanthaceae. Bull. Bot. Surv. India 7: 21 – 30.
  • ____ (1995). New and reconsidered Mexican Acanthaceae VI. Chiapas. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 48: 253 – 282.
  • ____ (1998). Pollen Morphology of Mexican Acanthaceae: Diversity and Systematic Significance. Proc. Calif. Acad. Sci. 50: 217 – 256.
  • ____, McDade, L. A., Oxelman, B., Furness, C. A. & Balkwill, M.-J. (2001). The Enigmatic tribe Whitfieldieae (Acanthaceae): Delimitation and Phylogenetic relationships based on molecular and morphological data. Syst. Bot. 26: 104 – 119.

Flora of West Tropical Africa

  • —F.T.A. 5: 120.

Flora Zambesiaca

  • Sp. Pl., ed.4: 400 (1800).
  • —Nees in De Candolle, Prodr. 11: 249 (1847).

Flora of Somalia

  • Flora Somalia, (2000) Author: by M. Hedrén [updated by M. Thulin 2008]

  • Flora Zambesiaca

    Flora Zambesiaca

  • Flora of Somalia

    Flora of Somalia

  • 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 2022. 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 Bulletin

    Kew Bulletin

  • Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone

    The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2022. 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