striped inch plant

Callisia elegans
dense infestation in a disturbed area in summer (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
dense infestation in a disturbed area in summer (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
habit (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
habit in flower (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of roots produced along the creeping stems (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
densely clustered fleshy leaves (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
green leaves with several white stripes (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of upper leaf surfaces (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of purplish leaf undersides and hairy leaf sheaths (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of stems and purple-tinged leaf undersides (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
semi-upright flowering stems (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
white flowers (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of flowers with three petals (Photo: Sheldon Navie)
close-up of old paired flower clusters (Photo: Sheldon Navie)

A long-lived herbaceous plant with creeping stems that form dense mats of vegetation. Its fleshy stems produce roots at their joints. Its velvety hairy leaves (3.5-10 cm long) have dark green upper surfaces with several white stripes. These leaves have purple-tinged to bright purple undersides. Its flowers are borne in small dense clusters along short, semi-upright, flowering stems. These flowers have three small sepals and three white petals.

Common names 
Also known as: creeping inch plant, inch plant, pinstriped inch plant, striped inch plant,
Flowering time 
Winter - Spring
Native to Central America.
Council declaration 
SIL – Special Investigation List
Known distribution 

Sparingly naturalised in the Moreton district in south-eastern Queensland.


A potential weed of roadsides, disturbed sites, waste areas, urban bushland, gardens, coastal sites and riparian vegetation.


A long-lived (i.e. perennial) herbaceous plant with creeping (i.e. prostrate or decumbent) stems that form dense mats of vegetation. It also produces short, semi-upright (i.e. ascending), flowering stems.

Impact and control methods 
Stem and leaves 

The fleshy (i.e. succulent) creeping stems are much-branched and produce roots at their joints (i.e. nodes). The alternately arranged leaves are densely clustered along the stems. These leaves consist of a short hairy (i.e. pubescent) sheath, which encloses the stem, and a fleshy (i.e. succulent) leaf blade. The leaf blades (3.5-10 cm long and 1.5-3 cm wide) are egg-shaped in outline (i.e. ovate) with entire margins and pointed tips (i.e. acute or acuminate apices). Their upper surfaces are dark green with several white stripes running lengthwise, while their undersides vary from slightly purple-tinged to bright purple in colour. These leaves are also densely covered in tiny hairs that give them a velvety texture (i.e. they are velutinous).

Flowers and fruits 

The flowers are arranged in compound clusters (6-15 cm or more long) and are borne towards the tips of the stems, or in the forks of the reduced upper leaves. They are made up of several smaller stalkless (i.e. sessile), or ocassionally stalked (i.e. pedunculate), clusters that are usually borne in pairs (i.e. paired cymes or cincinni). These clusters have several stalkless flowers and are subtended by papery bracts. Each of the flowers has three small sepals and three white petals. Flowering occurs mostly during winter and spring. The fruit are small capsules and usually remain hidden within the old flower parts.

Reproduction and dispersal 

This species reproduces by seed and vegetatively via its creeping stems (i.e. stolons).The creeping stems spread laterally and develop into large colonies, while stem segments are probably mainly spread in dumped garden waste.

Similar species 

Striped inch plant (Callisia elegans) is very similar to creeping inch plant (Callisia repens) and relatively similar to purple succulent (Callisia fragrans) and trad (Tradescantia fluminensis). These species can be distinguished by the following differences: striped inch plant (Callisia elegans) has small green leaves (3.5-10 cm long) with white stripes and purplish undersides. Its white flowers have three rounded petals.creeping inch plant (Callisia repens) has small purple-spotted green leaves (1-4 cm long) with purplish undersides. Its white flowers have three rounded petals.purple succulent (Callisia fragrans) has large green, purplish-green or purple leaves (5-40 cm long) with green or purplish undersides that are arranged in clusters. Its white flowers have three rounded petals.trad (Tradescantia fluminensis) has small glossy green leaves (3-6.5 cm long) with green undersides (its upper surfaces are sometimes white-striped in cultivated plants). Its white flowers have three pointed petals. It is also relatively similar to zebrina (Tradescantia zebrina), hairy wandering Jew (Commelina benghalensis) and native wandering Jew (Commelina diffusa). However, these species have pink or blue flowers and do not have white-striped leaves.