Centella – yet another silly purchase

In keeping with my penchant for odd plants, today we have a houseplant that I bought last week purely because I had never heard of it or seen anything quite like it before. It was a genus I was unfamiliar with and although it did not have great beauty in foliage terms, the fact that it was something new led me to part with 9 euro.

It was labelled as Centella aziatica (sic) although it should be Centella asiatica and has many leaves, growing from the compost with no visible stem. Now here there is a mystery because most of the photos I can find of this plant have reniforme leaves (kidney shaped) and definitely NOT the peltate (petiole attached in the centre of the leaf) that my plant has. So is it wrongly named? Well if it is then the plastic sleeve that stated that this is a ‘herb’ could be a problem. The true centella is widely used as a salad green and also has many herbal uses – an internet search will reveal it to be a panacea for all sorts of ills. It is also known as Gotu Kola.

It is also called Indian pennywort which makes me think that I have the true plant – the leaves look like coins after all. It is native to Asia and grows in swampy ground and is frost-tender.

As a potted plant it is quite attractive, in a quiet way, and my plant has started to flower. The blooms satisfy my criteria for liking ‘flowers less than 4mm across or only lasting a few hours’ – they are minute. My apologies for the poor photo below but they really are tiny and it was a dull, windy day! Although the arrangement is not typical of the family the flowers clearly show affinity to the Apiaceae – the carrot family.

At present it is in a bright window and although the petioles are looking a bit ‘stretched’ it seems happy enough. I will make sure it is kept moist. I have a feeling it will need to be divided in spring to keep it healthy – we will see!


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