Commelina benghalensis

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Botanical Name
Commelina benghalensis
Commelinaceae -

The Spiderwort family.

kom-uh-LEE-nuh ben-gal-EN-sis
Common Name(s)
English: Tropical Spiderwort; Benghal Dayflower; Benghal Wandering Jew; Blue Wandering Jew ; Venus's Bath; Wandering Jew
Afrikaans: Bengaalse Commilina; Bengaalse Wandelende Jood; Blouselblommetjie; Wandelende Jood
IsiXhosa: Uhlotshane
IsiZulu: Idambiso; Idangabane ; Idemadema; Idlebendlele
Sesotho: Khopo-e-nyenyane ; Khotswana
Tshivenda: Damba
IsiNdebele: Indabane
Plant Group
  • Annual

    Plant that germinates, grows, flowers, sets seed and dies within a year.

  • Climber / Creeper Climber: a plant that climbs using tendrils or if given support. Creeper: a plant running along the ground, often rooting as it goes.
  • Ground Cover A plant with a low-growing, spreading habit, grown specifically to cover the ground.
  • Perennial A plant whose life cycle lasts for three or more seasons.
  • Veld Flower Small veld flowers of interest, rather than for their usefulness in the garden. Some of these plants have garden potential, particularly for less formal garden situations.
  • Weed

    Any undesired, uncultivated plant that grows where it is not wanted, is invasive, competes with other plants for water, nutrients and space and seeds itself easily.

Plant Size
  • Small
    Tree4m to 8m
    Shrub50cm to 75cm
    Perennial/ground cover10cm to 20cm
    Bulb20cm to 30cm
    Succulent10cm to 20cm
  • Canopy Shade Canopy shade is found below closely grown trees where some light filters through. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Light or Dappled Shade Found below trees with sparse, open foliage. Ideal for the protection of herbaceous plants.
  • Partial Shade The area is in shade for part of the day and in full sun for part of the day.
  • Sun The area is in full sun for all or most of the day, all year round.
General Information
  • Deciduous Plants which completely lose their foliage for part of the year.
  • Drought Tolerance: High The plant is well adapted to arid conditions; it can survive long periods of drought and high temperatures without extra water.
  • Evergreen Plants that have leaves all year round.
  • Roots Invasive Do not plant near pools, paving, walls or buildings.
  • Water Moderate These plants will need some extra watering compared to water-wise plants. Plant them together, in at least some shade and in a convenient proximity to the house so that grey water can be utilised during times of drought.
  • Water Wise Plant species originating from low rainfall regions that require less water to survive and thrive than other plant species.
Specific Information

Commelina benghalensis can be an annual or perennial herb, depending on climatic conditions: annual in temperate to sub-tropical zones and perennial in tropical climates. The leaves are smooth on both sides, lily-like in shape, 3 - 7 cm long and 2 - 4 cm wide. Stems can be erect to climbing if supported or creeping along the ground.  A distinguishing feature is the presence of reddish (sometime white) hairs on the leaf sheath - this is reportedly the only Commelina with this feature. 

Commelina benghalensis is an aggressive plant that roots at almost every node as it creeps, creating a dense mat of growth on the soil surface which can smother other plants. A most fascinating feature is that it produces not only aerial (above ground) flowers, but also produces subterranean (underground) flowers, a somewhat unusual occurrence in the plant world. These underground flowers, which grow on burrowing stems, are white, very small and do not open. They do, however, produce seeds. (Images of these underground flowers can be seen here:

The ability to root from the nodes, produce seed both above and below ground and to take root from broken pieces of stem, combined with its capacity to thrive in a wide range of climatic conditions, have resulted in its being one of the most problematic weeds in 29 (and counting!) different countries. It is most troublesome in pastures and crop fields where it forms a dense cover that smothers low-growing plants such as vegetables, legumes, cotton and cereal crops.

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flower consists of two club-shaped spathes or bracts and one very small spathe below, with tiny yellow flowers in the center

  • Spring to Autumn Plants will seldom bloom for the entire season as given in the list, but should flower during a period within these parameters.
  • blue
  • lilac
Growth Rate
  • Very Fast Specifying growth rate can be very misleading as there is considerable variation of growth rate depending on type and species of plant, available water, supplementary feeding, mulching and general care, as well as the plants suitability and adaptability to the garden environment.
Plant Uses
  • Attracts bees, butterflies or other insects This plant attracts insects which can be food for birds or other creatures in your garden.
  • Ground Cover Low-lying plants that spread fast, require minimal maintenance, and cover large expanses or bare areas between bulbs or shrubs. They provide protection from erosion and drought and improve the visual appearance of the garden.
  • Stabilize Banks Plant is used to prevent soil erosion because their roots will form a mat that stabilizes the soil and keeps it from washing away in heavy rains.
Distribution and Habitat

native to all tropical and sub-tropical regions throughout Africa and Asia, and introduced to, amongst others, the U.S.A., the Hawaiian islands and Australia, in moist, sandy, loamy or rocky soils, on disturbed sites, forest edges, road sides, agricultural and cultivated sites, and home gardens

Planting Suggestions

Although Commelina benghalensis​ makes a fast growing ground cover and can stabilise soil on banks and slopes, one must consider its invasive qualities. Once planted, it is extremely difficult to eradicate and is almost guaranteed to spread to other parts of the garden. It grows easily from stems settled shallowly onto the soil.

Medicinal Uses

In South Africa, Commelina benghalensis is used for treating infertility in women. It is used in other parts of Africa and Asia as fodder for animals or food in times of scarcity, and medicinally for the treatment of sore feet, sore throat, burns, eye irritation, thrush in infants and stomach irritation.

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Lorraine, do you think that the Commelina africana which has a yellow flower is also as invasive and smothering as its purple sister discussed above?

Hi Yvette

My sincere apologies for not having replied to your query.

The Commelina africana that grows wild in my veld is not at all invasive - in fact it is very straggly and the plants remain quite small. I tried growing it in the garden but it was not happy. It grew a little bigger than those in the veld, but remained straggly and flowered less.

Kind regards

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