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This species is accepted, and its native range is Tanzania to Zambia.
A specimen from Kew's Herbarium


Lamiaceae (Labiatae), A.J. Paton, G. Bramley, O. Ryding, R.M. Polhill, Y.B. Harvey, M. Iwarsson, F. Willis, P.B. Phillipson, K. Balkwill, C.W. Lukhoba, D.F. Otieno, & R.M. Harley. Pycnostachys, G Bramleyshaped. Flora of Tropical East Africa. 2009

Type: Malawi, Nyika Plateau, 1800–2100 m, Whyte 139 (K!, holo.)
Morphology General Habit
Shrub, 1–2.5 m tall, becoming woody below
Morphology Stem
Stems erect, branching, quadrangular, or rounded-quadrangular where woodier, pubescent with short adpressed eglandular hairs and with scattered red sessile glands
Morphology Leaves
Leaves opposite, occasionally ternate, subsessile or shortly petiolate; blades narrowly ovate to narrowly elliptic to ± oblong, 4–11.5 × 1.4–4 cm, serrate, apex acute, base cuneate when petiolate or rounded to subcordate when more sessile, sometimes slightly overlapping the axil, with scattered yellow sessile glands, the upper surface with scabrous hairs especially near the margins, the lower surface densely pubescent to tomentose; petiole (when present) up to 1 cm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Inflorescences
Inflorescence dense, when in flower forming a conical shape, in fruit 45–55 × 13–30 mm; bracts subtending entire inflorescence ovate, 10–20 mm long, acute, somewhat clasping the stem due to subcordate base, enclosing buds then becoming deflexed in flower, indumentum as leaves, persistent through flowering stage; bracts subtending single flowers linear to lanceolate, 4–8 mm long, conspicuous or inconspicuous, the apex acute, sometimes acuminate and curling over, ciliate
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Calyx
Calyx variable, tube 1–2.5 mm long at anthesis, outer surface usually with eglandular hairs and scattered yellow sessile glands, inner surface with 0.5 mm long triangular scales present between calyx lobes, these and the areas between them with eglandular hairs; lobes 5, subulate, ± equal, usually with a membranous wing present either side of the midrib, 2.5–8 mm long, with short glandular hairs, sometimes with a few longer eglandular hairs present near the base, sometimes also with yellow sessile glands; fruiting calyx with tube 3–5 mm long, funnel-shaped, lobes patent and somewhat recurved, 4–10 mm long
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Corolla
Corolla blue, ± 15 mm long; tube with short glandular hairs, very narrow and parallel-sided for 5–6 mm, then curving sharply downwards and broadening for 3–4 mm before opening out into two lips; posterior lip shorter than anterior, 2–4 mm long, with short glandular hairs and longer eglandular hairs; anterior lip 5–6 mm long, 3–4 mm deep, with short glandular hairs and longer eglandular hairs
Morphology Reproductive morphology Flowers Androecium Stamens
Stamens connate for ± 1.5 mm, barely exserted
Morphology Reproductive morphology Fruits
Nutlets not seen.
Wet grassland, marsh or dambo in woodland; 900–2450 m
Least concern; widely distributed
Two species, P. perkinsii E.A.Bruce and P. whytei Baker are synonymised here. Bruce (1940) separated P. sphaerocephala, P. perkinsii and P. whytei on differences in the calyx morphology, especially the size and form of the calyx lobes and the pubescence of the tube. Specifically, she stated that it was possible to separate P. sphaerocephala from P. whytei by its short, winged calyx lobes. However, whilst it is evident that the calyx is variable in the material described under these names, especially in indumentum and lobe length, the differences do not correlate with any other morphological characters, geographical factors or habitat differences. Despite this lack of correlation, it is possible to recognise some of the variation highlighted by Bruce (1940) in groups of specimens within this complex. For example, the type specimen of P. sphaerocephala ( Whyte 139), the Tanzanian specimens and a number of other specimens from Malawi (e.g. Pawek 5876; Brummitt 11531), have short calyx lobes (2.5–3 mm when flowering) with a broadish wing that tend to lack eglandular hairs, but eglandular hairs are present on the inner surface of the calyx. A number of specimens fromnorthern Zambia, all from the same locality (e.g. Richards 16468 and 9595), tend to have conspicuous bracts, the apex of which is acuminate and often curls over, their calyx lobes are slightly longer (4–5 mm when flowering) than those from Malawi, with eglandular hairs near the base. The conspicuous bracts match the type of P. perkinsii ( Kassner 2991a) from CongoKinshasa, but this specimen is anomalous in that it does not have eglandular hairs on its calyx lobes, and the inner surface of the calyx is glabrous between the scales. The type specimen of P. whytei ( Whyte s.n.) and a few other specimens (e.g. Fanshawe 9264), from southern Tanzania and northern Malawi/Zambia have the longest calyx lobes (6–8 mm when flowering) of all the specimens, but they have no further distinguishing features and have a slight wing, resulting in their inclusion here.
Range: Congo-Kinshasa, Zambia and Malawi Flora districts: T2 T4 T5 T7 T8

Native to:

Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Zaïre

Coleus sphaerocephalus (Baker) A.J.Paton appears in other Kew resources:

Date Reference Identified As Barcode Type Status
Feb 1, 1939 Whyte, A. [s.n.], Malawi Pycnostachys whytei K000406001 Unknown type material
Jan 1, 2009 Kibuwa [6058], Tanzania Pycnostachys sphaerocephala K000248691
Jan 1, 2009 Mbalo [1246], Tanzania Pycnostachys sphaerocephala K000248692
Whyte, A. [139], Malawi Pycnostachys sphaerocephala K000406000 Unknown type material
Feb 1, 1939 Kassner [2991a], Congo, DRC Pycnostachys perkinsii K000405747 Unknown type material
Milne-Redhead, E. [10474], Tanzania Pycnostachys perkinsii 26567.000
Milne-Redhead, E. [10879], Tanzania Pycnostachys perkinsii 26573.000

First published in PhytoKeys 129: 98 (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.


Kew Backbone Distributions

  • Paton, A.J., Bramley, G., Ryding, O., Polhill, R., Harvey, Y., Iwarsson, M., Willis, F., Phillipson, P., Balkwill, K., Lukhoba, C., Otiend, D & Harley (2009). Lamiaceae (Labiatae) Flora of Tropical East Africa: 1-430.

Flora of Tropical East Africa
Flora of Tropical East Africa

Herbarium Catalogue Specimens
Digital Image © Board of Trustees, RBG Kew

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 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.