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Botanical Name: Houttuynia cordata variegata
Synonyms : Gymnotheca chinensis. Polypara cochinchinensis.
Common Name: Chameleon Plant, Heartleaf, Giap ca, Tsi, Chameleon, Rainbow Plant, Chameleon Plant
Habitat: Houttuynia cordata is natoive to E. Asia – China, Japan, Himalayas. It grows on shrubberies and damp places to 2400 metres in the Himalayas. Often found as a weed in wet fields.
Description: Houttuynia cordata is a perennial herb, growing to 0.6 m (2ft) by 1 m (3ft 3in) at a fast rate. It is in flower in June. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs)
Bloom Color: White. …Main Bloom Time: Early summer, Late summer, Mid summer……… Form: Spreading or horizontal, Upright or erect, Variable spread.
The plant belongs to an ancient herbaceous group called the “paleoherbs”.
[Vietnamese: diec ca, rau diep ca, vap ca]
The proximal part of the stem is trailing and produces adventitious roots, while the distal part of the stem grows vertically. The leaves are alternate, broadly heart-shaped, 4-9 cm long and 3-8 cm broad. Flowers are greenish-yellow, borne on a terminal spike 2-3 cm long with 4-6 large white basal bracts.
The plant grows well in moist to wet soil and even slightly submerged in water in partial or full sun. Plants can become invasive in gardens and difficult to eradicate. Propagation is via division.
Houttuynia in temperate gardens is usually in one of its cultivated forms, including: Chameleon (synonymous with H.c. ‘Court Jester‘, H.c. ‘Tricolour’, H.c. ‘Variegata’) this variety is slightly less vigorous than the species and has leaves broadly edged in yellow and flecked with red; Flore Pleno has masses of white bracts and the vigour of the parent species.
Seed – sow spring in a greenhouse. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and plant them out in the summer. Division in spring. Very quick and easy, it can be done successfully at almost any time in the growing season. Larger clumps can be replanted direct into their permanent positions, though it is best to pot up smaller clumps and grow them on in a cold frame until they are rooting well. Plant them out in the spring.
Teder young shoots and leaves – raw or cooked as a pot-herb. The leaves and young shoots are harvested in the spring when about 8cm long. Strongly aromatic according to one report whilst others say that it is rather smelly and somewhat like rotten fish. Our experience is that the leaves have a delicious orange-like smell and make a marvellous flavouring in salads. One report says that there are two distinct chemotypes of this species. Plants from Japan have an orange scent, whilst those from China have a smell resembling coriander leaves (Coriandrum sativum). Some people seem to really like this leaf, others are indifferent to it or strongly dislike it. It also varies quite considerably according to the time of year. In the spring and summer it has a very acceptable flavour, but by autumn a distinct bitterness has crept in. Root – cooked. Same comments on the smell as for the leaves. Fruit. No further details, but the fruit is a capsule that contains many small seeds.
The whole plant is antibacterial, antiinflammatory, antimicrbial, antiphlogistic, antiviral, depurative, diuretic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, hypoglycaemic, laxative and ophthalmic. A decoction is used internally in the treatment of many ailments including cancer, coughs, dysentery, enteritis and fever. Its use is said to strengthen the immune system. Externally, it is used in the treatment of snake bites and skin disorders. The leaves and stems are harvested during the growing season and used fresh in decoctions. The leaf juice is antidote and astringent. A root extract is diuretic. The root is also said to be used in medicinal preparations for certain diseases of women. The rhizomes yield a sterol, resembling sitosterol, which stimulates the secretion of antibiotic substances from a gram-positive spore-forming bacillus. An active substance, effective in the treatment of stomach ulcers, has been extracted from the plant.
Houttuynia is also used in herbal medicine. The beverage dokudami cha (Japanese: literally “Houttuynia cordata tea”) is an infusion made from Houttuynia cordata leaves, Oolong tea leaves, and Job’s Tears.
A good ground cover plant. Plants do not form a weed-suppressing cover. A spreading plant, it should be spaced about 45cm apart each way.
The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.