I noticed that I’ve been focusing more on trees, and tree-like herbaceous plants, for my weekly wilds. What can I say? I like trees! However, this week I’ve decided to branch out (haha) a bit and talk about a shrub species.
Ixora chinensis was one of the first plants I noticed in Haikou. I’ve only seen it where it’s been planted in city parks, though it’s apparently one of the most common native plants in Southern China. In the city, there isn’t much natural vegetation; everything has been carefully selected and landscaped. The Chinese Ixora is a common shrub along sidewalks and park trails.
A local friend told me that this is the flower of Haikou, and though I have no reason to believe otherwise, I haven’t been able to confirm it.
Because I. chinensis flowers year-round, it is not only aesthetically appealing, it also provides a food source for bees and butterflies.
Most parts of the shrub are used in traditional Chinese medicine. The roots are used for stomach issues, diarrhea, and fever. The leaves and flowers can be made into a tea to treat headache. Fresh flowers are said to be an effective treatment for tuberculosis and hemorrhaging, though I’m not sure that would be my first choice.
Chinese Ixora is a tropical evergreen shrub. It can grow up to 2 metres tall, though it’s more commonly maintained as a small shrub, less than 1 m in height.
The Ixora genus consists of over 500 species, which can be very similar in appearance. Nurseries will often use the same common names to refer to multiple species with the genus, and sometimes even for the whole genus. The only reason I was able to identify this flower to the species is because it had a sign with the species name right by the plant! If only field identification were always that easy.
Another common species within the genus is I. coccinea, also known as West Indian Jasmine or Jungle Flame. This species is used in Indian traditional medicine, and for many of the same purposes as its cousin. Jungle Flame flowers have a more vibrant red/scarlet hue, though they could easily be mistaken for I. chinensis.
The family, Rubiaceae, includes around 13,500 species, which makes it one of the largest angiosperm families. This family is responsible for coffee and the antimalarial medication quinine, though I’m not sure which we are more thankful for.
(2015). Ixora facts and growing tips. Dengarden. Accessed HERE
Fern, K. (2014). Ixora chinensis. Useful Tropical Plants. Accessed HERE.