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Clinacanthus nutans


Clinacanthus nutans (Burm. f.) Lindau

Family Name: Acanthaceae
Synonyms: Clinacanthus burmanni Nees in DC
Common Name: Sabah Snake Grass, 优顿草


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

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants)
Plant Growth Form Shrub
Lifespan (in Singapore) Perennial
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Irregular
Maximum Height 1 m to 3 m


Native Distribution From China, Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia.
Native Habitat Terrestrial (Grassland / Savannah/ Scrubland)
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Non-native

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form It is a scandent shrub, with upright branches drooping over, about 1-3 m tall.
Foliage Its simple, opposite, stalked leaves are lanceolate-ovate, lanceolate to linear-lanceolate, 4-12 cm long by 1-4 cm wide.
Flowers Its dull red to orange red flowers are about 3.2 cm long, with a green base, borne in dense terminal racemes.
Fruits Its fruits are in the form of a capsule, 2 cm long, shortly hairy.
Habitat It grows in thickets.
Associated Fauna Its flowers are probably pollinated by insects or birds.
Cultivation It can be propagated by seed or stem cutting.
Etymology Greek klinh, prostrate, bed, Latin Acanthus, after Acantha, a nymph loved by the Greek God Apollo who was changed into an Acanthus plant. Latin nutans, drooping, nodding, referring to the drooping form of the branches and leaves.
Ethnobotanical Uses Medicinal (

Scientific Evidence of Medicinal Properties

In pre-clinical trials, Sabah Snake Grass showed pain-relieving (Zakaria et al., 2018), anti-cancer (Rahman et al., 2019), anti-diabetic (Retnaningsih et al., 2019), anti-inflammation (Wanikiat et al., 2008), and antioxidant (Rahman et al., 2019) properties in animals.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

Research supports the traditional use of Sabah Snake Grass to treat insect / snake bites, skin rashes, herpes simplex virus-induced lesions, diabetes and gout in Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and China. 

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

Plant & Rootzone Preference - Tolerance Moist Soils, Well-Drained Soils, Fertile Loamy Soils
Landscape Uses Flowerbed / Border
Thematic Landscaping Economic Garden

Fauna, Pollination and Dispersal

Pollination Method(s) Biotic (Fauna)
Seed or Spore Dispersal Abiotic

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun, Semi-Shade
Water Preference Moderate Water
Plant Growth Rate Moderate
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Leathery
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Lanceolate, Elliptical)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Entire

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality 1 Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Red, Orange
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Inflorescence Type Raceme

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) - Angiosperms and Gymnosperms Brown
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type 1 Dehiscent Dry Fruit
Fruit Type 2 Capsule



Rahman, N.M.A.N.A., Nurliyana, M.Y., Afiqah, M.N.F.N.N., Osman, M.A., Hamid, M. & Lila, M.A.M. (2019). Antitumor and antioxidant effects of Clinacanthus nutans Lindau in 4 T1 tumor-bearing mice. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 19: Article ID 340.

Retnaningsih, C., Ananingsih, V.K., Meiliana, Anggraeny, E.N., Cahyani, I.M., Nugraheni, B. & Efendi, R. (2019). The effect of Clinacanthus nutans (Burm.f.) Lindau water fraction addition on hypoglycemia. IOP Conference Series: Earth and Environmental Science 292: Article 012032.

Wanikiat, P., Panthong, A., Sujayanon, P., Yoosook, C., Rossi, A.G. & Reutrakul, V. (2008). The anti-inflammatory effects and the inhbition of neutrophil responsiveness by Barleria lupulina and Clinacanthus nutans extracts. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 116(2): 234–244.

Zakaria, Z.A., Rahim, M.H.A., Roosli, R.A.J., Sani, M.H.M., Omar, M.H., Tohid, S.F.M., Othman, F., Ching, S.M. & Kadir, A.A. (2018). Antinociceptive activity of methanolic extract of Clinacanthus nutans leaves: Possible mechanisms of action involved. Pain Research and Management Article ID 9536406.

Image Repository



Master ID 31260
Species ID 5655
Species record last updated on: 09 November 2022.