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Acanthus ebracteatus


Acanthus ebracteatus Vahl

Family Name: Acanthaceae
Common Name: Sea Holly, Jeruju, Jerujah, Jejuru Hitam, Holly-leaved Mangrove, 小花老鼠勒


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
Name Authority
Name Status (botanical)
Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Shrub
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular
Maximum Height 1.5 m to 2 m


Native Distribution Tropical Asia, Tropical Australia, Pacific
Native Habitat Shoreline (Mangrove Forest)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Vulnerable (VU))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is an erect or sprawling shrub with with decumbent stems. It reaches up to 2 m tall.
Roots It has a tap root system that stays close to the soil surface.
Foliage Its opposite, stalked leaves have leaf blades that are oblong to oval, with toothed leaves that are deeply lobed with spine tips along the leaf margin, shiny dark green above, dark green below, and 7.5–20 by 2.5–6.5 cm.
Stems Stems are hollow and erect.
Flowers Its flowers are in a flowering shoot (spike) to about 8–15 cm long. Its flowers have white petals that turn brown with age.
Fruit Its fruits are oblong and slightly flattened, green to dark green, 2–3 by 1 cm, and contain four large, flat seeds.
Habitat Occurs in the back mangroves, forming an important part of the undergrowth. Also found along river banks near the coast where they are regularly inundated by seawater. It occurs locally at various mangrove forests in Singapore.
Similar It looks superficially similar to Acanthus ilicifolius.
Associated Fauna Provides shelter for small vertebrates. Its flowers are probably bird and insect pollinated.
Cultivation It can be grown submerged in freshwater.
Etymology Greek akanthos, derived from akantha, thorn, prickle; Latin ebracteatus, without bracts
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal: Chemicals in the bark have antiseptic properties. A decoction of the plant is drunk to treat kidney stones. The juice from the leaves is used as a hair preserver, and to relieve rheumatism. The stem and roots are used for skin diseases, and longevity. Its boiled seeds are used to poultice boils, and are also an ingredient for cough medicine along with Averrhoa flowers, black sugar-cane, cinnamon, and crystalline sugar. A decoction of the seeds is drunk to treat against boils.
Others: It accumulates zinc from contaminated soil.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping It is suitable for sunny, waterlogged areas, or in ponds as an emergent. It is tolerant of saline soils and salt sprays as well.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Foliage
Landscape Uses Coastal, Beachfront / Shoreline, Riverine, Pond / Lake / River, Marsh / Bog, Phytoremediation
Usage Hazard - Cons Spines/Thorns - Stem/Branch, Spines/Thorns - Leaf

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Explosive Dehiscence)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade, Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water
Rootzone Tolerance Waterlogged Soils (Does not Drain Site), Saline Soils / Salt Spray, Easy to Grow
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting (Tip, Herbaceous)


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth, Glossy / Shiny
Foliar Modification Spine (marginal)
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Oblong, Falcate / Curved)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Pinnately Lobed / Pinnatifid
Foliar Base Acute
Typical Foliar Area Mesophyll ( 45cm2 - 182.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Flower Symmetry Bilateral
Inflorescence Type Spike
Flower Transitional Changes Colour

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown, Green - Light Green
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Dehiscent Dry Fruit , Capsule


References Yong J, Tan PY, Nor Hafiz Hassan, Tan SN. 2010. A Selection of Plants for Greening of Waterways and Waterbodies in the Tropics. Singapore: Chung Printing . 480 pp.

Image Repository



Master ID 298
Species ID 1594
Flora Disclaimer The information in this website has been compiled from reliable sources, such as reference works on medicinal plants. It is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment and NParks does not purport to provide any medical advice. Readers should always consult his/her physician before using or consuming a plant for medicinal purposes.
Species record last updated on: 15 February 2022.