Hamelia patens

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Hamelia patens
Starr 031108-3166 Hamelia patens.jpg
Not evaluated (IUCN 3.1)
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Plantae
(unranked): Angiosperms
(unranked): Eudicots
(unranked): Asterids
Order: Gentianales
Family: Rubiaceae
Genus: Hamelia
Species: H. patens
Binomial name
Hamelia patens
Jacq., 1763
Hamelia patens range map.jpg
Natural range in United States

Hamelia patens is a large perennial shrub or small tree in the coffee family, Rubiaceae, that is native to the American subtropics and tropics. Its range extends from Florida in the southern United States to as far south as Argentina.[2] Common names include firebush, hummingbird bush, scarlet bush and redhead.



Firebush has orangish-red tubular flowers, which recruit hummingbirds and butterflies for pollination.[3] The corollas vary greatly in length, making them attractive to a wide range of pollinators.[4] The fruit is a small dark red berry, turning black at maturity.[5]

Despite its somewhat scraggy appearance, this is a valuable garden tree in warmer climates and even in temperate ones, as long as the soil remains above freezing.[3]


Hummingbirds are attracted by its flowers and other birds feed on the fruit, both of which will also forage on small insects found in the vicinity, helping to keep down pests. The fruit have a refreshing, acidic taste and are also edible by humans; in Mexico, they are made into a fermented drink.

Medicinal uses[edit]

Also, the plants are used in folk medicine against a range of ailments.[citation needed] A number of active compounds have been found in firebush, including maruquine, isomaruquine, pteropodine, isopteropodine, palmirine, rumberine, seneciophylline and stigmast-4-ene-3,6-dione.[6] The bark contains significant amounts of tannins. In Belize, this plant's Mayan name is Ix Canaan and is also known as "Guardian of the Forest". It is valued for the leaves which are used in preparations for treating skin conditions and infections.[citation needed]



  1. ^ "The Plant List: A Working List of All Plant Species". Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) (2006): Germplasm Resources Information Network - Hamelia patens. Version of 2006-AUG-04. Retrieved 2009-DEC-17.
  3. ^ a b Welch, Willam C. (2003): Horticulture Update - Firebush (Hamelia patens). Version of June 2003. Retrieved 2009-AUG-25.
  4. ^ Fenster, Charles B. (1991): Selection on Floral Morphology by Hummingbirds. Biotropica 23(1): 98-101. doi:10.2307/2388696 (First page image)
  5. ^ Francis, John K. (undated) http://www.fs.fed.us/global/iitf/pdf/shrubs/Hamelia%20patens.pdf Hamelia patens.pdf. Retrieved 2009-AUG-25.
  6. ^ Duke, Jim (2007): Dr. Duke's Phytochemical and Ethnobotanical Databases - Hamelia patens. Retrieved 2007-SEP-19.

External links[edit]

Data related to Hamelia patens at Wikispecies