polka dot plant

Hypoestes phyllostachya
spotted leaves (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
dense infestation (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
habit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
habit in flower (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
stem and upper branches (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of leaf covered in pinkish spots (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of paler leaf underside (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
flower from side-on (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of flower (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
young plants (Photo: Sheldon Navie)

A long-lived herbaceous plant growing up to 1 m tall. Its stems are somewhat four-angled and covered in long white hairs. Its paired leaves (up to 12 cm long) have dark green upper surfaces that are usually covered with numerous pinkish spots. Its pink or purplish flowers (about 2 cm long) are borne singly in the leaf forks. These flowers separate at the tip into two lobes, smaller lower lobe being bent backwards. Its fruit is a small hairless capsule (8-12 mm long).

Common names 
Also known as: polka dot plant, flamingo plant, freckle face, freckle plant, freckleface, measlesplant, polka-dot plant,
Flowering time 
Spring - Autumn
Native to Madagascar.
Council declaration 
SIL – Special Investigation List
Known distribution 

Widely naturalised in the coastal districts of eastern Australia (i.e. in coastal southern, central and northern Queensland and in the coastal northern New South Wales).


A weed of closed forests, forest gaps and margins, riparian vegetation, urban bushland, open woodlands, roadsides, disturbed sites and waste areas.


A long-lived (i.e. perennial) herbaceous plant growing up to 1 m tall, and sometimes becoming slightly woody at the base.

Impact and control methods 

"Polkadot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) is regarded as an environmental weed in parts of Queensland and New South Wales, and as a ""sleeper weed"" or potential environmental weed in other parts of Australia. It has escaped cultivation as a garden plant and has become naturalised along waterways, in riparian areas, in open woodlands and on rainforest margins in the warmer and wetter parts of eastern Australia. This species prefers shaded habitats and can form dense carpets of vegetation in the understorey of native bushland. It is currently of greatest concern in south-eastern Queensland, where it is listed among the top 200 most invasive plants species, and appears on numerous local environmental weed lists in this region (e.g. in the Gold Coast City, Redlands Shire, Cooloola Shire, Caboolture Shire and Maroochy Shire).

Stem and leaves 

"The stems are often somewhat four-angled (i.e. quadrangular) and are covered in long white hairs (i.e. pilose). The paired leaves are simple and borne on stalks (i.e. petioles) 1-7 cm long. These leaves (up to 12 cm long and 8 cm wide) are egg-shaped in outline (i.e. ovate) or elongated in shape (i.e. broadly lanceolate) with entire margins and pointed tips (i.e. acute apices). They have dark green upper surfaces that are usually covered with numerous pink or lilac spots or blotches. Their undersides are paler green and both surfaces are sparsely hairy (i.e. puberulent)."

Flowers and fruits 

"The flowers (about 2 cm long) are borne singly in the leaf forks (i.e. axils), but the upper leaves are reduced and the flowers appear to be in elongated flower spikes (i.e. terminal spicate clusters). Each flower is subtended by a two fused bracts (i.e. an involucre) 8-12 mm long. They have five fused sepals (i.e. calyx) 6-10 mm long that separate near the tip into four narrow (i.e. lanceolate) lobes 2-3 mm long. Their pink to purplish petals are also fused together at the base into a tube (i.e. corolla tube) about 10 mm long. This tube separates at the tip into two lobes (i.e. it is two-lipped) about 7-10 mm long. The lower lobe is usually entire and bent backwards (i.e. reflexed), while the upper lobe is broader and has three small teeth at the tip. Each flower also has two stamens, with anthers borne on stalks (i.e. filaments) about 1 cm long, and an ovary topped with a style and stigma. The fruit is a small hairless (i.e. glabrous) capsule (8-12 mm long) that turns from green to brownish in colour as it matures. "

Reproduction and dispersal 

This species reproduces mainly by seed, which are spread by water, animals and in mud.

Similar species 

Polkadot plant (Hypoestes phyllostachya) can usually be easily recognised by its distinctly spotted leaves.