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Cyanotis cristata


Cyanotis cristata D.Don

Family Name: Commelinaceae
Synonyms: Cyanotis barbata, Tradescantia cristata, Cyanotis imbricata, Commelina cristata
Common Name: Nabhali, Netha Kina, 四孔草


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Monocotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Compact
Maximum Height 0.3 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 0.1 m to 0.5 m


Native Distribution Tropical Africa, Himalayas, Southern China, Indochina, Malaysia, Indonesia
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical, Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal
Local Conservation Status Cryptogenic

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Herbaceous succulent shrub, forms thick mounded mats of up to around 30cm height.
Foliage Leaves fleshy, hairy along margins, turns from green to reddish when exposed to strong sun and drought stress.
Stems Fleshy, prostrate and creeping, branching at irregular intervals.
Flowers Small, purplish-white petals with attractive purple-blue filamentous styles topped by yellow anthers, produced in few-flowered terminal inflorescences; free-flowering.
Fruit Brown explosive capsules with tiny seeds and persistent bracts.
Others - Plant Morphology Local Conservation Status: Previously considered as native to Singapore by various local references (eg. Hsuan Keng 1998, etc.) Listed as an exotic weed of uncertain origin by recent research (A Checklist of the Total Vascular Plant Flora of Singapore, NUS-RMBR, Nov 09).
Habitat Found in grassy spots and sandy areas near the sea.
Cultivation Very drought-tolerant, able to withstand at least 2 weeks without rain or watering. Spreads very quickly and may overtake nearby plants to form monoculture plot, prune to control aggressive growth. Propagate by stem cuttings.
Etymology Genus epithet 'Cyanotis' means 'blue' in Greek (kyanos), a reference to the colour of the flowers. Species epithet 'cristata' means 'having tassel-like tips' or 'crested', which describes the hairy styles of the flowers.
Ethnobotanical Uses Food (Herb or Spice)
Others: Roots used to treat swelling and snakebite.

Landscaping Features

Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Foliage
Landscape Uses Coastal, Skyrise / Balcony, Suitable for Rooftops, Vertical Greenery / Green Wall, Flowerbed / Border, Suitable for Hanging Baskets
Thematic Landscaping Rockery / Desert Garden
SGMP Treatment

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Explosive Dehiscence)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water, Little Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Well-Drained Soils, Poor Infertile Soils, Saline Soils / Salt Spray, Shallow Media, Disease / Pest Resistant, Drought Tolerant
Potential Problems Spreads very quickly. Often overwhelms nearby plants.
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting
Maintenance Requirements Remarks Prune plant to contain growth.


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green, Red
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth, Hairy / Hirsute, Thick
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Alternate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate, Lanceolate, Oblong)
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Base Cordate
Typical Foliar Area Microphyll ( 2.25cm2 - 20.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 3.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Monocot)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Herbaceous
Root Type Underground (Fibrous Root)
Specialised Storage Organ(s) Aboveground

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Blue, Purple
Flowering Period Free-Flowering
Flowering Opening Time Time-Independent
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Dehiscent Dry Fruit , Capsule

Image Repository



Master ID 616
Species ID 1911
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: 08 August 2022.