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This species is accepted, and its native range is Guinea to Ivory Coast.


Phillipson, P. et al. (2019). Three species of Coleus (Lamiaceae) from the Guinean Highlands: a new species, a new combination and clarification of Coleus splendidus. Kew Bulletin 74: 24.

We assess Coleus ferricola as Vulnerable [VU B2ab(i-iv)]. Its EOO is estimated at 84,078 km2, which falls above the limit for Vulnerable status under Criterion B1, and its AOO is estimated at 124 km2, which is within the limits for Endangered status under Criterion B2. This species is restricted to the Guinea Highlands in Guinea, Liberia, Ivory Coast and Sierra Leone, where it is known from nine subpopulations, one of which is encompassed within a legally protected area (the Nimba Mountains World Heritage Site). The nine subpopulations represent a total of nine threat-based locations, which falls within the limits for Vulnerable status under criterion B2a. The main threat to the species is habitat destruction due to intensive road construction associated with the ongoing exploration phase of mining projects at both Simandou and Nimba in Guinea, the sources of the majority of the specimens cited above. Here open-cast iron ore mining is planned, which will result in extraction of the substrate on which the species directly grows. However, it is unlikely that the species will be totally eliminated at these locations since some areas with lower quality iron-ore which host the species are not due to be mined (e.g. at Simandou, the second highest peak, Dabatini, and the type locality on Nimba). Since C. ferricola grows as an annual, on bare rock, and since it is fairly frequent where suitable habitat occurs, it may be able to recolonise any ferralitic rock that might remain post-mining. However, a decision to proceed with the planned mining activities would significantly increase the scope and intensity of impacts at both sites, thereby resulting in an even higher level of threat. The current threats are projected to continue in the future, resulting in ongoing loss of its habitat, which leads us to predict a continuous decline in the quality of its habitat, as well as of the number of subpopulations and mature individuals, and thus, also of its AOO. Nonetheless, it is set to lose a portion of its global population at these two locations, although at Nimba, the majority of the species’ high altitude grassland habitat is formally protected. The species is more secure at Ziama, and in the Sierra Leone locations of Loma and Tingi Hills, since iron substrates are thought to be absent there, no mining is planned, the sites are remote from direct human impacts, and the locations are formally protected.
Africa: the Guinean Highlands of Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ivory Coast and Liberia
On haematite boulders and in fissures on rock faces of outcrops in grassland, less frequently on granite (Ziama) or sandstone (Kounounkan); 900 – 1580 m altitude in Guinea and Liberia, down to 600 m in Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast.
Morphology General Habit
Annual or short-lived perennial herb, 0.1 – 0.6 m tall, with stem arising from fibrous roots, with small tubers possibly produced in dormant season; not reported as aromatic. Stem ascending or decumbent, rooting adventitiously, branching from near base, pale green but more-or less strongly tinged and irregularly spotted purple-red especially on the angles, sparsely to densely villous with short retrorse and conspicuous long, spreading eglandular, white or sometimes purplish hairs and sessile red glands
Morphology Leaves
Leaves petiolate; petioles 3 – 11 mm long, colour and indument like the stems; blade sometimes purple mottled, ovate to rhombic, 10 – 25 mm long, 10 – 15 mm broad, crenate to serrate, base cuneate to truncate, apex acute to obtuse, villous to pubescent with eglandular hairs and red sessile glands
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens briefly exserted from the anterior corolla lip; filaments slightly shorter than the lip, mauve; anthers dark blue
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx 3 – 5 mm long in flower, villous to pubescent with spreading eglandular white hairs and red sessile glands; fruiting calyx 4 – 6 mm long, with pedicel attached behind posterior lip; posterior lip elliptic, shallowly curved upward, apex acute; lateral lobe oblong, apex rounded, shorter than or rarely exceeding the length of the posterior lobe; anterior lobes longer than posterior lobe, fused for most of length with two small apical teeth; teeth 0.5 – 1 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla pale blue to mauve, 6 – 10 mm long, sparsely pubescent on lobes, and with scattered red sessile glands; tube 4 – 5 (– 6) mm long, bending downwards; anterior lip 3 – 6 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Gynoecium Style
Style as long as the lower corolla lip, briefly exserted from the anterior corolla lip before the stamens (protogynous), mauve
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Nutlet brown, 1 mm long, obovoid.
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence lax with 8 – 24-flowered verticils c. 10 – 25 mm apart; cymes sessile, 4 – 12- flowered; pedicels 2 – 4 mm long; bracts mauve, sessile, narrowly ovate 4 – 5 long, 2.5 – 3 mm broad, glabrous above, with sparse long, white, eglandular hairs below, denser near the margins, strongly deflexed at anthesis, caducous after anthesis
In addition to its similarity to the undescribed species and to Coleus splendidus, C. ferricola could also be confused with C. rotundifolius (Poir.) A.Chev. & Perrot. This species is cultivated in West Africa for its edible tubers and includes C. pallidiflorus A.Chev. described from Fouta Djalon. It has ascending stems, which at least in West Africa, tend to have red coloration on the stem angles like C. ferricola, and also has a similar inflorescence and flowers. However, C. rotundifolius tends to be more robust, with larger leaves, and unlike C. ferricola it has evident perennating tubers at flowering time. Furthermore, C. rotundifolius has a much less developed indument on all its parts, although it often has conspicuous fine hairs along the midrib and secondary venation on the lower surface of its leaves, whereas C. ferricola has rather uniform long spreading hairs on upper and lower leaf surfaces. The inflorescence of C. rotundifolius has a fine sparse indument that contrasts strongly with the conspicuous long whitish indument of C. ferricola. The corolla of C. rotundifolius is blue, the generally darker lower lobe contrasting with the paler, almost white tube and lateral and upper lobes, while the corolla of C. ferricola is a more uniform colour and is most commonly pale lavender-blue to mauve. The new species is similar to Coleus splendidus A.Chev. from Fouta Djalon, which is discussed below, but differs in being decumbent and branched from the base, rather than erect and unbranched in the lower part; and in having much shorter and broader leaves with blades rhomboid to ovate, 10 – 25 (– 45) mm long, 10 – 15 (– 30) mm broad (vs narrowly elliptic, 50 – 120 (– 150) mm long, 15 – 20 ( – 25) mm broad); with a truncate to cuneate base in C. ferricola (vs a long attenuate base, that is indistinct from the petiole in C. splendidus). The corolla of C. ferricola is also generally smaller, 6 – 9 mm long (vs (8 –) 10 – 15 mm long in C. splendidus).
Republic of Guinea, Nzérékoré, Lola, Guinée Forestière, Nimba Mountains, Nimba iron ore mining concession, East side of Pierre Richaud, 1537 m, 07°40'19"N 008°21'50"W, 13 Oct. 2011, Phillipson, Bidault & Bilivogui 6324 (holotype MO; isotypes BR, K, P, SERG, WAG).

Native to:

Guinea, Ivory Coast, Liberia

Coleus ferricola Phillipson, O.Hooper & A.J.Paton appears in other Kew resources:

First published in Kew Bull. 74(2)-24: 4 (2019)

Accepted by

  • Govaerts, R., Nic Lughadha, E., Black, N., Turner, R. & Paton, A. (2021). The World Checklist of Vascular Plants, a continuously updated resource for exploring global plant diversity. Scientific Data 8: 215.


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Kew Backbone Distributions
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.

Kew Bulletin
Kew Bulletin

Kew Names and Taxonomic Backbone
The International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families 2021. Published on the Internet at and
© Copyright 2017 International Plant Names Index and World Checklist of Selected Plant Families.