- History and Culture
Plectranthus madagascariensis, is a small evergreen perennial herbaceous plant. It is semi - succulent and aromatic. Its leaves, attached to pendulous stems are heterogeneous, they are edged with a white border. Flowering occurs from February to November, the flowers are white, mauve or purple. It is a useful ground cover in shaded and semi-shaded conditions. It makes an attractive hanging basket. It enjoys a well-drained and composted soil and needs to be pruned after the flowering period.
The spreading of this native species is remarkably extensive, the plants are usually found under shaded subtropical groves. In Mauritius it is common on mountains and cliffs exposed to the wind. It is present in humid and shaded areas but also in open rocky areas. In the garden, it attracts insects and butterflies as well as birds.
P. madagascariensis is classified as ‘Endangered’ on the IUCN Red List. No specific conservation program is implemented for this species, which is however protected under the forest restoration program. Its population is declining due to the loss of its natural habitat and the invasion of exotic species. Due to the pungent fragrance of the leaves, the species is not readily predated by herbivorous animals and rats.
The species is used in traditional medicine for the treatment of coughs, colds and scabies. The branches and smelly leaves of the Plectranthus species are sometimes hung around houses or rubbed on windows to keep flies away.
It was collected for the first time by Philibert Commerson in Mauritius but was certainly also observed in Madagascar hence the name madagascariensis.