23 October 2016 | New Plants | Hemigraphis glaucescens | Perilla frutescens
While trying to verify the identity of the Green Shrimp Plant (Blechum pyramidatum) last week, I had an unexpected identification of another plant (Hemigraphis glaucescens), that had been hibernating in my unknown plant folders since 2009. The first time that I saw it was at the Singapore Zoo and managed to capture an image of its flower then. Even with the flower, the search of its identity had been futile. I had short-life excitement when I saw the picture of the flowers in a local pictorial plant guide (Plants in Tropical Cities, page 456) with the name Justicia gendarussa. The excited waned when I looked up the pictures of Justicia gendarussa in the Internet. The leaves did look the same but the flower was totally dissimilar.
Another herb that caught my attention was Perilla frutescens, commonly known as Perilla. It is a widely known plant and goes by many common names depending on the countries. During my recent visit to a herb garden in the western part of Singapore, I was told that a pot of herb with mixed purple and green leaves was Perilla. After examining the pictures back home, I had doubt that the local herb was Perilla. In fact, it looked more like Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides) to me.
When I checked with plant nursery where I got the pot of Green Shrimp Plant two weeks back, they did not carry this herb. The scale of this plant nursery was relatively large and they were selling all kind of traditional herbal plants. If they did not carry this herb, it probably meant that the live herb was really uncommon or not easy to grow in Singapore. The authentic Perilla leaves are available in some high-end supermarkets.
In the NPark Flora & Fauna website, it showed a cultivar from a cross between Coleus and Perilla with the end product known as Gage's Shadow that has purplish leaves. This well-documented cross took place in 2001 and this new and distinct cultivar was patented. In conclusion, I suspect there is no live Perilla frutescens plant in Singapore at this point.