Creeping inchplant

Callisia repens (Jacq.) L.

Synonyms - Hapalanthus repens (basionym), Commelina hexandra, Spironema robbinsii, Tradescantia callisia

Family: Commelinaceae


Callisia is derived from the Greek word kallos meaning beauty.
Repens is from the Latin repe meaning to creep referring to the creeping habit of the stems.
Pink lady is a cultivar found in nurseries and refers to the more pronounced pink/purple colouration of the leaves.

Other Names:

Bolivian Jew, creeping basket plant, creeping edge plant, creeping inch plant,
inchplant, pink lady, turtle vine.


A low growing, succulent, evergreen perennial with creeping, mat forming, many branched stems that root at the nodes. The leaves are alternate, 10-40 mm long, soft, downy, dark green above and rich purple below or with purple margins and spots. The leaves densely clustered along the stems, but gradually become smaller and more distant from each other along the flowering stems. The flowers are small, white and are arranged in small stalkless clusters in the forks of the reduced upper leaves. They appear in summer to autumn.
The fruit is a tiny oblong capsule with two compartments, each containing two seeds. Overall the plant is up to 10 cm tall and spreads to 1.2 m or more.




First leaves:


Alternate. Densely clustered along the stems, but gradually become smaller and more distant from each other along the flowering stems.
Stipules - Very short sheath enclosing the stem.
Petiole - None (sessile)
Blade - Succulent, egg to lance shaped, 10-40 mm long by 6-20 mm wide. Pointed tip. Edges smooth, rounded and hairy. Rounded to obtuse at the base and clasping. May have purple spots or edges or are purple on the underside.

Stem leaves - Smaller than basal leaves.


Succulent, creeping, many branched, forming roots at the nodes (stolons). They form mats up to 1200 mm wide and 100 mm deep.
Flower stem - short, semi-upright (ascending).

Flower head:

Flowers are borne in clusters in the leaf axils.


Small, white and bisexual, sessile, usually in pairs with papery bracts underneath.
Ovary -
Sepals - 3, narrow, green, 3-4 mm longs
Petals - White, inconspicuous, 3-6 mm long
Stamens - 3
Anthers - 3


Oblong capsule, 1.5 mm long with 2 compartments with 2 seeds in each.


Small, 1 mm wide, brown with a rough (rugose) surface.


Fibrous. Roots are also formed at the nodes on the stems.

Key Characters:

Leaves less than 4 cm, spread along the stem, lanceolate, attached to the stem via a leaf sheath.
Creeping habit
Flowers clustered in axils of reduced (bracteal) leaves at the ends of stems, apetalous.
Roots at the stem nodes.


Life cycle:




Seed and stem segments

Flowering times:

April in WA.
Mainly summer and autumn in Queensland.
Late spring or early summer overseas.

Seed Biology and Germination:

Vegetative Propagules:

Stem segments with roots at the nodes.


Many horticultural varieties.


Ecology, Population Dynamics and Dispersal:

Spread by water, garden waste and earthworks.

Origin and History:

Mexico, Central America, South America, West Indies, Caribbean
Found at Broome (2003) and Carnegie Station (2013) near Wiluna and eradicated.
Accidently distributed by nurseries in 2018 in WA.



Courtesy Australia's Virtual Herbarium.



Prefers full sun to semi shaded areas.


Prefers dry shallow soils.

Plant Associations:

Riparian areas, regrowth forests and shrublands, disturbed areas, coastal environs, roadsides, forest margins, urban bushland.





Invasive environmental weed.
May cause allergic reactions in animals.


May cause allergic reactions in pets (especially cats and dogs), characterised by red, itchy skin.


Red, itchy skin.


Remove animals from the infestation.


Declared Weed in WA.

Management and Control:

Manually remove while wearing protective clothing and gloves or spray with fluroxypyr (e.g. Starane®) or glyphosate (e.g. Roundup®).



Eradication strategies:

Use repeated foliar sprays or manually remove.
In non selective situations, products containing triclopyr plus picloram will provide control by both leaf absorption and residual soil activity for root absorption.

Herbicide resistance:

None reported

Biological Control:

None in Australia.

Related plants:

Striped inch plant (Callisia elegans)
Callisia fragrans
Scurvy weed (Commelina cyanea and Commelina ensifolia).
Hairy Wandering Jew (Commelina benghalensis).
Wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis)

Plants of similar appearance:

Chain of Hearts, Pimpernel (Anagallis arvensis), Peperomia, Portulaca.
Creeping inch plant (Callisia repens) is very similar to striped inch plant (Callisia elegans) and relatively similar to purple succulent (Callisia fragrans) and trad or wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis). These species can be distinguished by the following differences: creeping inchplant (Callisia repens) has small purple-spotted green leaves (10-40 mm long) with purplish undersides. Its white flowers have three rounded petals. Striped inchplant (Callisia elegans) has small green leaves (35-100 mm long) with white stripes and purplish undersides. Its white flowers have three rounded petals. The purple succulent (Callisia fragrans) has large green, purplish-green or purple leaves (50-400 mm long) with green or purplish undersides that are arranged in clusters. Its white flowers have three rounded petals. Trad or wandering Jew (Tradescantia fluminensis) has small glossy green leaves (30-65 mm long) with green undersides (its upper surfaces are sometimes white-striped in cultivated plants). Its white flowers have three pointed petals. It is also very similar to Tahitian bridal veil (Gibasis pellucida) that has flowers in loose stalked clusters. It is relatively similar to zebrina (Tradescantia zebrina), hairy wandering Jew (Commelina benghalensis) and native wandering Jew (Commelina diffusa) which have pink or blue flowers.


Bodkin, F. (1986). Encyclopaedia Botanica. (Angus and Robertson, Australia).
Randall, J.M. and Marinelli, J. (1996) Invasive Plants. (Brooklyn Botanic Gardens Inc. Brooklyn). P. Photo.


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