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Coleus monostachyus


Coleus monostachyus (P.Beauv.) A.J.Paton

Family Name: Lamiaceae (Labiatae)

Ocimum monostachyum P.Beauv., Plectranthus monostachyus (P.Beauv.) B.J.Pollard, Plectranthus palisotii Benth., Solenostemon monostachyus (P.Beauv.) Briq.

Common Name: Monkey's Potato


Family Name
Genus Epithet
Species Epithet
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Common Names

Classifications and Characteristics

Plant Division Angiosperms (Flowering Seed Plants) (Dicotyledon)
Plant Growth Form Herbaceous Plant
Lifespan (in Singapore) Annual
Mode of Nutrition Autotrophic
Plant Shape Shrubby
Maximum Height 0.3 m to 1 m


Native Distribution Western Tropical Africa to Sudan
Native Habitat Terrestrial
Preferred Climate Zone Tropical
Local Conservation Status Non-native (Spontaneous (Naturalised))

Description and Ethnobotany

Growth Form Erect, typically annual herb up to 1 m tall. Occasionally, it can be perennial.
Foliage Light green, egg-shaped leaves are lined with rounded teeth on the leaf margin.
Flowers The 2-lipped, purple and white flowers are arranged in small clusters of 3-5 known as cymes. The cymes are arranged in whorls (known as verticils) along a spike inflorescence.
Fruit The fruit is composed of 4 egg-shaped nutlets (1 mm wide).
Similar Monkey's Potato resembles Indian Borage (scientific name: Coleus amboinicus), but it has a distinctly 4-sided stem, while that of Indian Borage is more round.
Cultivation In Singapore, this species is not cultivated and generally considered a weed.
Ethnobotanical Uses Edible Plant Parts : Edible Leaves
Food (Fruit or Vegetable): In Africa, the leaves are boiled as a vegetable.

Traditional Medicinal Uses

According to traditional medicine, the leaf sap is taken internally for fever, cough, headache, colic and convulsions. It is thought to have a calming, sedative effect, as well as improving appetite and strengthening the stomach.

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

Cultural / Religious: In Africa, this species is used in rituals related to pregnancy.

Plant Care and Propagation

Light Preference Full Sun
Water Preference Moderate Water
Maintenance Requirements Low
Propagation Method Seed, Stem Cutting


Foliage Retention Evergreen
Mature Foliage Colour(s) Green
Mature Foliage Texture(s) Bulging in between Veins
Foliar Type Simple / Unifoliate
Foliar Arrangement Along Stem Opposite
Foliar Attachment to Stem Petiolate
Foliar Shape(s) Non-Palm Foliage (Ovate)
Foliar Venation Pinnate / Net
Foliar Margin Crenate
Foliar Apex - Tip Acute
Foliar Base Rounded / Obtuse, Truncate / Square
Typical Foliar Area Mesophyll ( 45cm2 - 182.25 cm2 )
Typical Foliar Size 6 cm to 13.5 cm

Floral (Angiosperm)

Flower & Plant Sexuality Bisexual Flowers
Flower Colour(s) Purple, White
Flower Grouping Cluster / Inflorescence
Flower Location Terminal
Flower Symmetry Bilateral
Individual Flower Shape Labiate / Lipped
Inflorescence Type Cyme, Verticel, Spike
Flowering Habit Polycarpic
Flower Size 1 cm

Fruit, Seed and Spore

Mature Fruit Colour(s) Brown
Mature Fruit Texture(s) Sticky
Fruit Classification Simple Fruit
Fruit Type
Seed Quantity Per Fruit Few (1-5)


References <1> Kiew, R., Kamin, I. (2021) Coleus (Lamiaceae) in Peninsular Malaysia including two new species. PhytoKeys 186: 93-110.

Image Repository



Master ID 31802
Species ID 6202
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: 30 September 2023.