Clerodendrum tomentosum

Hairy Clerodendrum; Lolly Bush; Flowers of Magic; Downy Chance Tree; Witches Tongues. Informal name: “Hairy Clary”

Family: Lamiaceae

A small tree, growing up to 10 m tall with a trunk diameter of 0.25 m, (though usually much smaller).

It grows from Batemans Bay in southern coastal New South Wales, extending mainly along the coast with some incursions into the central western slopes; into Queensland, Northern Territory, Western Australia, and New Guinea. It is found in a range of vegetation communities and soil types (i.e. warmer rainforest margins, sand dune forest and Cumberland Plain Woodland on clay (amongst others)).

Clerodendrum spp. have simple and opposite leaves. In this species, they are entire (smooth) margins (juvenile leaves can be toothed), to 14 cm long and to 4.5 cm wide with a short tip. Leaf surfaces are generally noticeably hairy with a velvet-like texture. Stems also with velvet texture.

Clerodendrum spp. have flowers with 5 calyx-lobes and 5 petal-lobes. In this species. bright-white flowers form in dense heads (or cymes – an inflorescence in which the first flower is the terminal bud of the main stem and subsequent flowers develop as terminal buds of lateral stems). Flowers have long stamens that protrude well-out from the corolla tube, with flowers about 20 mm across. The cymes are then clustered secondarily into corymbs (a broad umbrella-like arrangement of flowers). Flowering occurs in the months of October to January.

The fruit is a drupe (a stone fruit) 8 to 10 mm long, black in colour and seated in the enlarged red fleshy calyx. The calyces are quite noticeable.

In the garden

A plant that is relatively easy to grow but not popular in cultivation. It does get planted in bushland regeneration projects with good success. A nice upright shrub which would add interest to any garden. The white flowers are very showy although may not be produced in large numbers. The ripe fruit with red calyces are also attractive. Likely tolerates a range of soils with adequate drainage.

Can be pruned easily and if shaped, does flower and fruit with greater abundance. Grows to 10 m tall but can easily be kept shorter.

The red and black of the fruiting body attracts birds, such as the Satin Bowerbird. The flowers attract butterflies. Flowers are pollinated by nocturnal moths. The fruit is not edible for humans

A pioneer species in regeneration areas


Slow to regenerate from seed, though it can strike from cuttings.

Does tend to pop up in the garden if plants are growing in an adjoining bushland area. 

Other information

Three subspecies have been described but not recognised in NSW.
1. var. tomentosum occurs in WA, NT, QLD and NSW usually in deciduous vine forest, coastal vegetation and river banks. It is distinguished in part by the leaf blades which can be elliptic, elliptic-oblong or broadly lanceolate with attenuate base.
2. var. mollissima occurs in deciduous vine thickets and coastal vegetation in WA, and rarely in NT. It is distinguished by the leaf blades which are very broadly ovate with an almost rounded leaf base.
3. var. lanceolatum occurs in WA and in Qld near Chillagoe and inland areas south towards Rockhampton. It is distinguished in part by the leaf blades which are narrow-lanceolate and attenuate at both ends.

Recent phylogenetic studies have shown that the genus Clerodendrum belongs in the mint family, Lamiaceae. Consequently, this species has been removed from the verbena family – Verbenaceae.

Likely regenerates from seed after fire. May be able to sucker from basal zone.

Clerodendrum is a genus of about 400 species, occurring in tropical and subtropical regions worldwide. Australia has 9 species, with 7 endemic – occurring in Queensland, New South Wales, Western Australia and Northern Territory. NSW currently has 3 species.

Clerodendrum – named by the father of modern taxonomy, Carl Linnaeus. Clerodendrum is from the Greek: Kleros (κλέρος) which means “clergy” (religious people in the Christian religions) and dendros (δενδρος) meaning “tree”. Species of this genus have a history for being used for all sorts of medicinal purposes and were used in religious rites in Asia. The genus is now known to have a lot of potential medicinal properties.

tomentosum – refers to the downy or hairy leaves (‘tomentose’).

This species is not considered to be at risk of extinction in the wild.

NSW Flora Online (PlantNET) – Clerodendrum tomentosum profile page https://plantnet.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/cgi-bin/NSWfl.pl?page=nswfl&lvl=sp&name=Clerodendrum~tomentosum

Australian Tropical Rainforest Plants – Clerodendrum tomentosum profile page https://apps.lucidcentral.org/rainforest/text/entities/clerodendrum_tomentosum.htm

Wikipedia – Clerodendrum tomentosum profile page https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Clerodendrum_tomentosum

Wrigley, J.W. & Fagg, M.I. (2001). Australian Native Plants – Propagation, cultivation and use in landscaping. 4th edition. New Holland Publishers, Pty. Ltd. Australia.

By Jeff Howes. Editing and additional text by Dan Clarke.