Hippobroma longiflora (L.) G. Don

Etymology Genus
Horse (=Hippo) fury (=bromos); referring to its poison which can drive horses mad
Species Long flower
Synonyms Lobelia longiflora L., Laurentia longiflora (L.) Peterm.
Common Names Star of Bethlehem, Madam Fate
Status Exotic: Naturalised
Form Herb
Native Distribution The Caribbean

Diagnostic: An easily recognisable herb because of its rosette leaf arrangement. Its leaves are pinnately-lobed, the margins are lined with teeth, and they lack a petiole. The mid-vein is also very prominent. The white flowers have a long stalk and are five-petalled. It prefers shady areas.

Interesting Facts: One has to be careful handling this plant as it contains a poisonous white sap (lobelanidine) that can cause irritation on contact. It also may even cause blindness if it gets onto the eye, and give a burning sensation when ingested (FloraFaunaWeb, 2010).

The Star of Bethlehem is widely cultivated as an ornamental plant, and likely as a result, also naturalised in many tropical and subtropical countries (eFloras, 2008).

Hippobroma longiflora
A patch of lawn covered by Hippobroma longiflora in the National University of Singapore.
Hippobroma longiflora   Hippobroma longiflora
Pinnately-lobed leaves are lined with teeth.
Hippobroma longiflora
Side view showing its short stem.   Flower resembles a star; hence the common name, Star of Bethlehem.


eFloras. (2008) Hippobroma longiflora (Linnaeus) G. Don, Gen. Flora of China. Missouri Botanical Garden, St. Louis, MO & Harvard University Herbaria, Cambridge. http://www.efloras.org/. Accessed on 19-Jan-2013.

FloraFaunaWeb. (2010) Laurentia longiflora. National Parks Board, Singapore. https://florafaunaweb.nparks.gov.sg/Special-Pages/plant-detail.aspx?id=2188#. Accessed on 19-Jan-2013.

Posted on 19-Jan-2013 / Last Updated on 11-Jan-2015