Indian Heliotrope (Indicum)

The Indian Heliotrope (Indicum) is generally described as an annual forb/herb. This is not native to the U.S. (United States) .

Uses of : Landscaping, Medicinal, Culinary, etc.

Heliotropium from helios (sun) and trope (turn) -- flowers turn toward the sun. Some species are considered poisonous (Heliotropium indicum), while others (Heliotropium torreyi) are considered fair browse for sheep and goats. Although apparently not preferred by waterfowl, some incidental use has been documented.

General Characteristics

General: Borage Family (Boraginaceae). Heliotropium indicum, one of the largest heliotropes found in Texas, is introduced, and is one of the few annuals within this genus (in Texas). India heliotrope grows upright (2-3 feet in height) and is very leafy, when compared to other heliotropes. The leaves are dark green, alternate, entire, and hispid (hairy). The stems are also hispid. Flowers are blue or violet (rarely white), and like all heliotropes, the younger flowers are located towards the tip of the inflorescence (flower cluster), while mature seed are lower on the flower stalk.

There are approximately 14 species of Heliotropium in Texas. Most are upland species found in the western portions of the state. Six are commonly found in wetlands. Most have white flowers, although blue or violet is not uncommon. Vegetatively, most heliotropes have smallish and narrow leaves and the growth habit is prostrate, or generally so. The seed head, and the way that the flowers are restricted to the tips, is very characteristic of the entire genus.

Required Growing Conditions

Introduced from Texas and Florida to New York. For current distribution, please consult the Plant Profile page for this species on the PLANTS Web site.

General Upkeep and Control

HEMA2"Maximilian sunflower plants growing on rich, fertile sites will grow tall and spindly. Weak stems will cause the plants to fall and can be staked to remain upright. Older stems can be mechanically cut back at the end of the season to make room for new sprouts.

Maximilian sunflower exhibits fire tolerance in its dormant stage. Seedlings will emerge on open, post-burned sites from the underground seedbank and rhizomes. Following fire in North Dakota, Maximilian sunflower grew taller, stiffer, and seeded more vigorously. Research suggests that plant performance increases following fire in disturbed, invaded areas but not on undisturbed areas. Fire removes competition and opens up the canopy for Maximilian sunflower in the disturbed areas.

Seeds and Plant Production Seeds are ready for collection in late October and November. They are moist stratified for 56 days. Germination occurs at an alternating cycle of 30oC daytime and 15oC nighttime temperatures. The optimum soil temperature for germination is 20oC to 30oC. Seventy percent of seeds will germinate in 7 to 25 days.

One-year-old plants sprout new shoots that can be dug up and cut from the parent plant. Division and transplantation should take place in February or March. "

Plant Basics
General Type Forb/herb
Growth Duration Annual
Plant Nativity Introduced to U.S.

Source: USDA, NRCS, PLANTS Database,
National Plant Data Center, Baton Rouge, LA 70874-4490 USA