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Houttuynia cordata


Houttuynia cordata

Family Name: Saururaceae
Synonyms: Polypara cordata, Houttuynia cochinchinensis
Common Name: Fishwort, Chameleon Plant, Heartleaf, 鱼腥草


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Aquatic & Hydrophyte
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Maximum Height 0.2 m to 0.3 m
Maximum Plant Spread / Crown Width 0.6 m to 0.9 m


Native Distribution India to Japan, Java
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Riverine, Grassland / Savannah/ Scrubland)
Preferred Climate Zone Sub-Tropical / Monsoonal, Temperate

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Aquatic, herbaceous creeper up to 60 cm tall.
Foliage The heart-shaped leaves are simple and arranged alternately along the stem. The leaves are green with a purple leaf surface, the lower part of the petiole forming a sheath around the stem.The leaves emits a strong fishy odour when bruised or rubbed, due to presence of sulphurous compounds. 
Flowers The flowers are borne on a spike around 2cm long. The base of the spike has four, white petal-like bracts.
Others - Plant Morphology Creeping shrub, 30-60cm height. Leaves heart-shaped, emits strong fishy odour when bruised or rubbed, due to presence of sulphurous compounds. Flowers white.
Cultivation It is best grown under full sun to partial sun, in moist soil. 
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal:

Scientific Evidence of Medicinal Properties

In both pre-clinical and clinical trials, Fishwort showed anti-inflammation (Lee et al., 2015; Yang et al., 2021) in animals and people, respectively.

In pre-clinical trials, Fishwort showed anti-cancer (Lou et al., 2019), anti-diabetic (Kumar et al., 2014), anti-microbial (Kim et al., 2008), antioxidant (Kim et al., 2014), and cholesterol-lowering properties (Lin et al., 2013) properties in animals.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Research supports the traditional use of Fishwort to treat cough and cancer. Other traditional uses include using leaf and stem decoctions to strengthen the immune system.

It is important to note that some therapeutic effects from traditional medicinal uses of plants are not currently supported or verified by scientific research. 


Landscaping Features

Landscape Uses Container Planting, General, Riverine
Thematic Landscaping Water Garden, Bioswales / Sunken Garden, Economic Garden, Naturalistic Garden
SGMP Treatment

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Explosive Dehiscence)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Semi-Shade, Full Sun
Water Preference Lots of Water
Plant Growth Rate Fast
Rootzone Tolerance Waterlogged Soils (Drains Site), Easy to Grow
Propagation Method Stem Cutting, Stolon / Runner, Division
Maintenance Requirements Remarks May spread invasively by rhizomes and runenrs under favourable conditions.


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Deltoid)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire - Wavy / Undulate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acuminate
Foliar Base Auriculate
Typical Foliar Area Notophyll ( 20.25cm2 - 45 cm2 )
Leaf Area Index (LAI) for Green Plot Ratio 4.5 (Shrub & Groundcover - Dicot)

Non - Foliar and Storage

Stem Type & Modification Herbaceous, Runner / Stolon
Root Type Underground (Fibrous Root)
Specialised Storage Organ(s) Underground (Rhizome)

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) White
Flowering Habit Polycarpic

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type Dehiscent Dry Fruit , Capsule



Kim, D.H., Lim, J.J., Lee, J.J., Jung, W.C., Shin, H.J., Lee, H.J., Kim, G.S. & Kim, S. (2008). Antibacterial and therapeutic effects of Houttuynia cordata ethanol extract for murine salmonellosis. Korean Journal of Environmental Agriculture 27(2): 156–162.

Kim, J.H., Cho, Y.J., Pan, J.H., Park, T.S., Shim, S.M. & Kim, Y.J. (2014). Antiatherogenic and antioxidative effects of Houttuynia cordata extracts in rats fed a high-fat diet. Food Science and Biotechnology 23: 2069–2074.

Kumar, M., Prasad, S.K., Krishnamurthy, S. & Hemalatha, S. (2014). Antihyperglycemic activity of Houttuynia cordata Thunb. in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Advances in Pharmacological Sciences Article ID 809438.

Lee, J.H., Ahn, J., Kim, J.W., Lee, S.G. & Kim, H.P. (2015). Flavonoids from the aerial parts of Houttuynia cordata attenuate lung inflammation in mice. Archives of Pharmacal Research 38: 1304–1311.

Lin, M.C., Hsu, P.C. & Yin, M.C. (2013). Protective effects of Houttuynia cordata aqueous extract in mice consuming a high saturated fat diet. Food & Function 4(1): 322–327.

Lou, Y., Guo, Z., Zhu, Y., Kong, M., Zhang, R., Lu, L., Wu, F., Liu, Z. & Wu, J. (2019). Houttuynia cordata Thunb. and its bioactive compound 2-undecanone significantly suppress benzo(a)pyrene-induced lung tumorigenesis by activating the Nrf2-HO-1/NQO-1 signaling pathway. Journal of Experimental & Clinical Cancer Research 38: Article ID 242. 

Yang, J.H., Hwang, E.J., Moon, J., Yoon, J.Y., Kim, J.W., Choi, S., Cho, S.I. & Suh, D.H. (2021). Clinical efficacy of herbal extracts in treatment of mild to moderate acne vulgaris: an 8-week, double-blinded, randomized, controlled trial. Journal of Dermatological Treatment 32(3): 297–301.


Image Repository



Master ID 817
Species ID 2112
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: 10 November 2022.