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Acanthus ebracteatus (Variegated)

Family Name: Acanthaceae
Common Name: Variegated Sea Holly
Full Sun: 6-8h Semi-Shade Lots of Water Coastal Ornamental Foliage Woody Herbaceous


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Shrub (Herbaceous)
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Shrubby
Maximum Height 1.5 m


Native Habitat Shoreline (Mangrove Forest, Mudflat)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Erect semi-woody plant with a shrubby growth form.
Foliage Oblong, lobed leaves have sharp spines along the leaf margin. Smooth, shiny leaves have a variegated pattern of mostly green with white to cream-coloured patches concentrated mostly along the leaf margin, but sometimes covering more than half the leaf.
Stems Reddish stems are thick and round. Stems have sharp spines.
Flowers White flowers are arranged in a spike inflorescence. The flower buds are shaped like slippers. Mature blooms have stamens with orange-brown filaments (stalk) and white and brown anthers (pollen-bearing structure). The 2 white petals are held horizontally and slightly cupped.
Fruits Fruits are greenish brown and striped with irregular, thin yellow patches. They are flattened ellipsoids and classified as capsules. Capsules have a long tail at the tip which is the remainder of the stigma.
Cultivation This cultivar is useful for water landscaping, and can be grown in water.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Foliage
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Saline Soils / Salt Spray
Landscape Uses Coastal, Beachfront / Shoreline
Usage Hazard - Cons Spines/Thorns - Stem/Branch, Spines/Thorns - Leaf

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade, Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water
Propagation Method Stem Cutting


Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green, Yellow / Golden, White
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White
Flower Texture(s) Smooth
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Flower Symmetry Bilateral
Individual Flower Shape Labiate / Lipped
Inflorescence Type Spike
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Brown, Yellow / Golden
Mature Fruit Texture(s) Smooth
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Dehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Capsule
Plant Sexuality (non-Angiosperm) Monoecious


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 299
Species ID 1595
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: 19 August 2021.