Mussaenda erythrophylla, the colorful garden plant

Mussaenda erythrophylla garden plant Mosantha from Kerala 300x198

Flower of the tropical garden plant Mussaenda erythrophylla, aka Ashanti blood, prophet’s tears, virgin tree, etc.

The flower that you see in the picture is the inflorescence of the plant Mussaenda erythrophylla, mostly found in African countries such as Ghana, Central African Republic, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Tanganyika, Nigeria, Uganda, Sudan, Togo, Zaire, Cameroon, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, and in several other parts of tropical Africa.

This photo was taken by me in 2006 at the village house of a family member living in Kerala, India.

Mussaenda erythrophylla and/ or other subspecies of the genus can also be commonly found in countries such as Brazil, Colombia, United States, West Indies, Thailand, Japan, Indonesia, and India, and many other parts of tropical and subtropical Asian regions.

The popular species of this genus of plants include Mussaenda acuminata, Mussaenda alicia, Mussaenda erythropylla ‘Dona Luz’, Mussaenda erythropylla ‘Queen Sirikit’, Mussaenda erythropylla ‘Rosea’, Mussaenda frondosa, Mussaenda longiflorum, and Mussaenda philippica ‘Aurorae’.

The plant is also known by localized English names such as Ashanti blood, prophet’s tears, red flag bush, red mussaenda, tropical dogwood, virgin tree, and in other languages flor de trapo, mussaenda-vermelha, rotblättrige mussaenda, sang des achanti, and signalstrauch. The corrupt forms of the plant’s name include mosantha, mosanta, musanta, musanda, etc.

Plants of the genus Mussaenda are generally semi-deciduous shrubs, or they may grow up to a height of 30 feet like a small tree, especially when they grow in the wild. By nature they produce many branches, and spread out. They generally have thick foliage with medium-sized green leaves.

Most of the flower-like structures that we see in Mussaenda plants in bloom are the colorful bracts, which are modified or specialized leaves. Mussaenda bracts may be seen in several colors including red, rose, pale pink, white, and in other shades of these colors. We can see similar colorful bracts in other plants such as Bougainvillea, Euphorbia pulcherrima (poinsettia) and Heliconia.

The actual flower is very small and in the center of each bract, and may be often yellow, white or orange in color. These are types of terminal panicles with tubular flowers with mostly white corolla of about 2 cm diameter.

Mussaenda plants grow well in tropical climate with ample sunlight, good rainfall and high humidity. The plant responds well to humus-rich soil conditions with adequate drainage. In sandy soil, watering and proper adding of manure are required for the proper growth of the plant.

The plant needs pruning, generally in winter. If it is grown as a garden plant, or ornamental plant, gardeners can give the plant attractive shapes by pruning. Pruning also helps the plant to grow new branches that throw out a lot of colorful bracts and flowers.

Mussaenda flowers are bisexual, but they seldom grow into fruits or produce seeds. So, the plants have to be reproduced by either the process of planting semi-woody scion, or by layering.

Note: I release this photo into public domain. You are free to save it to your computer and use it for your website, blog, or in whatever way you want. CLICK on the photo to view full size.


  1. sorry but nthe name for this plant at that picture is not “Mussaenda erythrophylla”
    the right name is “Mussaenda philippica A. Rich. ′Dona Luz′

    • Krishna says:

      I think the originally given classification suits the plant more. In fact it is a hybrid plant described as ‘Mussaenda erythrophylla X Mussaenda philippica’, developed at the Philippines University. You may look at the photo and description HERE

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