JUSTICIA BRANDEGEEANA (ACANTHACEAE):
NEW TO THE TEXAS FLORA
JASON R SINGHURST
Wildlife Diversity Program
Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
3000 South IH-35, Suite 100
Austin, Texas 78704
WALTER C. HOLMES
Department of Biology
Waco, Texas 76798-7388
Justicia brandegeeana is documented as occurring outside of cultivation in Texas. Several
colonies were found growing on a terrace above Coleto Creek in Victoria County. It is suspected that
seeds were dispersed from landscape plantings in the Victoria area. Justicia brandegeeana has
moderate invasive potential along the Texas coast.
KEY WORDS: Acanthaceae, Justicia, Texas, naturalized
Justicia brandegeeana Wassh. & L.B. Sm. (Acanthaceae), commonly known as shrimpplant
or Mexican shrimpplant, was recently documented as naturalizing in Victoria County, Texas. The
species has not been previously reported outside of cultivation in Texas (Correll & Johnston 1970;
Hatch et al. 1990; Jones et al. 1997; Turner et al. 2003). The species has escaped cultivation and is
naturalized in peninsular Florida, where it is reported in eight counties (USDA, NRCS 2012;
Wunderlin & Hansen 20 12). In Texas, J. brandegeeana has been reported to naturalize in some
places on the Texas coastal plain (Kress 2007) but without herbarium specimen evidence.
Justicia brandegeeana is an evergreen perennial shrub native to Mexico and a common
ornamental that thrives in the shade in tropical areas (FLORID ATA 2012). The species is named
after Townshend Stith Brandegee (1843-1925), botanist and expert on the Cape flora of Baja
California. The flow^ers are white, protruding from rusty-reddish bracts that generally suggest a
shrimp, hence the common name. A number of cultivars are available with yellow, pink, and dark
brick-red flower bracts. The flower -bract complex attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.
Justicia brandegeeana (Figs. 1, 2) was discovered in a coastal live oak (Quercus virginiana)
motte on a creek terrace in Victoria County. The dominant flora included Quercus virginiana. Ilex
vomitoria, Vaccinium arboreum, Callicarpa americana, Erythrina herbacea, Mahaviscus
drummondii, Smilax bona-nox, Tillandsia recurvata, Sideroxyion lanuginosa, Cenchrus incertus.
Toxicodendron radicans, Heterotheca subaxillaris, Froelichia sp., Cyperus sp., and Dichanthelium
sp. It is suspected that shrimpplant seeds were dispersed from landscape plantings, possibly by birds,
in the Victoria, Texas, area. Numerous colonies (averaging lxl meters) were present in a slightly
over one hectare (three acres) site, with some colonies spreading to 3 x 3 meters. These colonies are
reproducing vegetatively through rhizomes and adventitious roots on branches near the ground.
Singhurst and Holmes: Justicia brandegeeana new to Texas 2
Figure 2. Justicia brandegeeana inflorescence and flower (Singhurst 19318, BAYLU).
Singhurst and Holmes: Justicia brandegeeana new to Texas 3
Voucher specimen. USA. Texas. Victoria Co.: 1.7 mi S of the jet of Dawn Road and Coleto
Creek Park Road on Coleto Creek Park Road, to N side of Coleto Creek spillway below dam, then E
of dam 0.4 mi, 4 Dec 2012, Singhurst 19318 (BAYLU).
Justicia brandegeeana (Figs. 1, 2) grows in clumps to 1-1.5 meters (3-5 ft) tall and 1 meters
(3 ft) wide that occasionally may spread or converge to form larger colonies. The stems are
sprawling, weak, and slender. Stems are tipped by drooping spikes about 15 cm long of dark red to
rusty brown bracts, each bract enclosing a tongue-like white flower. Shrimpplant is evergreen in mild
climates and blooms almost continuously. The leaves are oval, light green, and 5-8 cm long. The
young stems and the undersides of the leaves are soft and downy.
The authors are indebted to Guy Nesom, friend, botanical colleague, and editor of
Phytoneuron, for his contributions in preparation of this manuscript for publication.
Correll, D.S. and M.C. Johnston. 1970. Manual of the Vascular Plants of Texas. Texas Research
FLORID AT A 2012. A photographic encyclopedia of landscape plants. Tallahassee, Florida.
Hatch, S.L., K.N. Ghandi, and L.E. Brown. 1990. Checklist of the Vascular Plants of Texas. Texas
Agricultural Experiment Station Pub. 1655. Texas A&M Univ., College Station.
Kress, Stephen W. 2007. Hummingbird Gardens: Turning Your Yard Into Hummingbird Heaven.
Brooklyn Botanical Garden, Brooklyn, New York.
Jones, S.D., J.K. Wipff, and P.M. Montgomery. 1997. Vascular Plants of Texas: A Comprehensive
Checklist Including Synonymy, Bibliography, and Index. Univ. of Texas Press, Austin.
Turner, B.L., IT. Nichols, G.C. Denny, and O. Doron. 2003. Atlas of the Vascular Plants of Texas,
Vol. 1. Sida, Bot. Misc. 24, Bot. Res. Inst, of Texas, Fort Worth.
USDA, NRCS. 2012. The PLANTS Database. National Plant Data Team, Greensboro, North
Carolina, <http://plants.usda.gov> Accessed December 2012.
Wunderlin, R.P. and B.F.Hansen. 2012. Atlas of Florida Vascular Plants. [S.M. Landry and K.N.
Campbell (application development), Florida Center for Community Design and Research]
Inst, tor Systematic Botany, Univ. of South Florida, Tampa, <http://www.plantatlas.usf.edu/>