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Gardenia mutabilis Reinw. ex Blume

Family Name: Rubiaceae
Full Sun: 6-8h Moderate Water Butterfly Food Plant Fragrant Ornamental Flowers Woody


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Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
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Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Shrub (Woody)
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular
Maximum Height 1 m to 5 m


Native Distribution South Philippines to Maluku (Indonesia)
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Exotic (Horticultural / Cultivated Only)

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Woody shrub or small tree, can reach up to 5 m tall.
Foliage Leaves are glossy and elliptic, measuring 5 - 15 cm long and 2.5 - 5 cm wide, with entire leaf margin. The apex is acute (having a pointed tip) or acuminate (having a distinct drip tip) while base is cuneate. Leaves are whorled, having about 3 leaves per node.
Stems Woody stem has grey bark. Bark is mostly smooth with dot-shaped lenticels (corky structures that allow oxygen to pass into the stem).
Flowers Flowers are solitary, initially cream-coloured to light yellow and then become orange-yellow or orange at maturity. Bisexual, erect flowers have 7 - 8 oblong, paddle-shaped petals that are arranged radially, like the spokes of a bicycle wheel. Flowers are fragrant. Calyx tube slightly ridged, without distinct lobes and tightly sheaths the corolla tube.
Fruits Fruits are subglobose, measuring 2.3 - 2.7 x 2 - 2.5 cm. Mature fruits have rugose (wrinkled, corrugated) surface. 
Habitat Found in primary lowland forests and vegetation on limestone areas.
Taxonomy This species was previously misidentified and misnamed in the trade as Gardenia gjellerupii. It has now been correctly identified as Gardenia mutabilis by Low Yee Wen (SING herbarium).
Cultivation This species is best planted in full sun, because shady conditions inhibit flowering and result in leggy plants. Mulch the plants with compost to prevent the soil from drying out or the roots from overheating. Feed plants with a fertilizer rich in phosphorous to promote flowering. Avoid using nitrogen rich fertilizers, because they encourage development of leaves rather than flowers. Try not to prune frequently, because flowers are produced from the new growth.
Etymology Genus "Gardenia" is named after Dr. Alexander Garden, an American doctor who also studied plants and animals (1730 - 1791). Species mutabilis means changeable in colour.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping This species is grown for its fragrant, brightly coloured flowers. The flowers are interesting, because they deepen in colour from cream to orangish yellow. This species would be ideal for a garden with a golden colour theme. It would also be good for butterfly gardens as a nectar plant. Avoid planting several types of fragrant flowering shrubs together as the clash of strong aromas could be unpleasant. Planting too many of them together could also create a fragrance that is too strong.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Fragrant (Flowers) (Day)
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Fertile Loamy Soils, Well-Drained Soils
Landscape Uses Parks & Gardens
Thematic Landscaping Golden Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Butterfly Food Plant
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna) (Insects (Butterfly, Moth))

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Propagation Method Stem Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Glossy / Shiny
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire
Foliar Apex - Tip Acuminate
Foliar Base Cuneate
Typical Foliar Area Mesophyll ( 45cm2 - 182.25 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Trunk Type (Non Palm) Woody
Bark Colour(s) grey
Mature Bark Texture Smooth, Lenticellate
Stem Type & Modification Woody
Root Type Underground (Tap Root)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Cream / Off-White, Orange, Yellow / Golden
Flower Symmetry Radial
Individual Flower Shape Salverform
Flowering Opening Time Daytime
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Image Repository



Master ID 732
Species ID 2027
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: 14 October 2021.