Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants - Online edition

Microstachys chamaelea (L.) Hook.f.

Herb (herbaceous or woody, under 1 m tall)
Shrub (woody or herbaceous, 1-6 m tall)
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Female flowers and fruit. © CSIRO
Flowers. © CSIRO
Leaves and Flowers. © CSIRO
Scale bar 10mm. © CSIRO
Cotyledon stage, epigeal germination. © CSIRO
10th leaf stage. © CSIRO

Hooker, J.D. (1863) Linnea 32: 95.


Usually flowers and fruits as a herb but sometimes grows into a shrub about 1 m tall.


Leaf blades about 20-50 x 3.5-8 mm, petioles 1-4 mm long, channelled on the upper surface. Leaf margin usually toothed but the teeth quite small, pale and visible only with a lens. Stipules caducous, small, short and triangular, about 0.5 mm long. Petioles and twigs emit a watery white to clear exudate.


Flowers small, male flowers about 0.5 mm diam., borne in slender spikes while the female flowers about 0.5-1 mm diam., tend to be solitary. Female flower tepals with ciliate margins and two glands at the base. Ovary with three bilobed appendages on the outer surface.


Capsules about 6-7 x 5 mm, disintegrating completely at maturity leaving only the central axis attached to the plant. Outer surface of the capsules sometimes quite smooth but more often with 2 lines of prominent glands or conical processes on the back of each lobe.


Cotyledons obovate, about 13-14 x 7 mm, apex truncate. First pair of leaves linear to obovate. At the tenth leaf stage: leaf blade linear to obovate, about 30-35 x 7 mm, apex retuse, base obtuse or cuneate, petiole about 1 mm long. Lateral veins about 8, forming loops inside the blade margin. Seed germination time 168 days.

Distribution and Ecology

Occurs in WA, NT, CYP, NEQ, CEQ and southwards as far as coastal central Queensland. Altitudinal range from near sea level to 800 m. Usually grows in open forest but also found in vine thickets and low closed forest on sand dunes close to the sea. Also occurs in Africa?, Asia and Malesia.

Natural History & Notes

This species has been used medicinally in India. Cribb (1981).

Microstachys chamaelea (L.) Hook.f., Flora Tasmaniae : 46(1859). Sebastiania chamaelea (L.) Mull.Arg., Prodromus 15(2): 1175(1866). Tragia chamaelea L., Species Plantarum : 981(1753), Type: Ceylon, Herb. Hermann Vol. 4: 43 No. 335, Lecto: BM, Esser (1999) Blumea 44: 176.
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