Scientific name

Houttuynia Thunb.

Common names

chameleon plant, ghost plant



Could be confused with


Native distribution


Species commonly cultivated

Houttuynia cordata Thunb. (Japan, Korea, Taiwan, China, northern India)

Adventive distribution

United States (Louisiana)

Weed status

occasionally considered weedy; recorded as a weed under surveillance in New Zealand


emergent, herbaceous stem plant

Brief description

Perennial. Stem erect or ascending. Leaves alternate, widely spaced, petiolate, stipule present; leaf blade ovate, base cordate, venation palmate; margin entire. Inflorescence a short spike subtended by large white (usually) petaloid bracts. Flowers small, bisexual or unisexual, sessile; sepals and petals absent; stamens 3, conspicuous. Dispersal by seed. Aromatic when damaged.

Natural habitat

swamps and bogs, found particularly on wet ground and in littoral zone of ponds and streams

Additional comments

A single species in the genus. The cultivar H. cordata 'Chameleon', with yellow and red variegated leaves, is more commonly grown than the species. In most soils this plant will spread aggressively.