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Acanthus ilicifolius L.

Family Name: Acanthaceae
Common Name: Mangrove Holly, Sea Holly, Jeruju Putih, Kolimulli, 老鼠勒
Full Sun Semi Shade Lots of Water Bird-Attracting Plant Native to Singapore Coastal Plant Ornamental Flowers Ornamental Leaves Shrub


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
Maximum Height 3 m


Native Distribution India to Polynesia (including Singapore), and Australia
Local Conservation Status Native to Singapore (Least Concern (LC))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a semi-woody, sprawling shrub sometimes up to 3 m tall. Its stems are shiny green with speckles, and a pair of spines at the leaf’s angles. Prop roots may sometimes develop at lower parts of the stems.
Foliage Its opposite, shortly-stalked leaves possess spiny leaf blades that are oval to oblong, pale green with a yellowish tinge above and green below, and 5–22 cm by 2–7 cm.
Flowers Its flowering shoot is up to 20 cm long, bearing up to 20 pairs of flowers clustered in four vertical rows at its end. Its pale lilac flowers are 2–4 cm long, with three much- bracts (reduced leaves) basally.
Fruits Its 4-seeded fruits are slightly flattened, ovoid, shiny green, and 2–3 cm long. They explode when ripe to expose wrinkled, whitish-green seeds that are about 1 cm long.
Habitat It grows in mangrove forest, pure freshwater or waterlogged areas, and on dry land. It occurs locally in the vicinities of Sungei Mandai, Senoko, Pasir Ris Park, Pulau Ubin, Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve, and many other mangrove forest sites.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are pollinated by carpenter bees and occasionally sunbirds.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed or stem cuttings.
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal ( Constipation and sore legs can be treated by taking a mixture of the aerial parts of the plant and ginger. The leaves are used to treat rheumatism and wounds. They are also used to make a soothing and softening cream. A solution of the crushed leaves may be drunk to aid childbirth. Additionally, a concoction of the leaves can be taken with the stems to promote longevity, or with the roots to improve hair conditions, and treat sores and snake bites.)
[Others]: The entire plant can also be used as a drying agent and so placed in rice sacks. It is cultivated as an ornamental plant.

Landscaping Features

Landscaping Its spiny leaves make it useful as a barrier plant to block off certain areas of the landscape design. It is grown as a marsh plant for pond edges or in beds in drier conditions.
Desirable Plant Features Ornamental Flowers, Ornamental Foliage
Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Waterlogged Soils (Does not Drain Site), Saline Soils / Salt Spray, Easy to Grow
Landscape Uses Coastal, Hedge / Screening, Pond / Lake / River, Marsh / Bog
Thematic Landscaping Marsh Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Fauna Pollination Dispersal Associated Fauna Bird Attracting (Flowers)
Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic (Explosive Dehiscence)

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun, Semi-Shade
Water Preference Lots of Water
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting (Tip, Herbaceous)


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green - Light Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Smooth
Foliar Modification Spine (marginal)
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Pinnately Lobed / Pinnatifid
Foliar Base Acute

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Purple, White
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Flower Symmetry Bilateral
Inflorescence Type Spike

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Green, Brown
Mature Fruit Texture(s) Glossy / Shiny
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Dehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Capsule


References Duke, N. C.. 2006. Australia’s mangroves: The authoritative guide to Australia’s mangrove plants. Australia: University of Queensland. pp. 80-191

Khare, C. P.. 2007. Indian medicinal plants: An illustrated dictionary. United States of America: Springer Science & Business Media. 900pp

Image Repository



Master ID 29178
Species ID 3487
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.