Taiwan beauty is scientifically named in Latin as Cuphea hyssopifolia. Another scientific name for Cuphea hyssopifolia in Latin is Cuphea rivularis Seem. or Parsonia hyssopifolia (Kunth) Standl. Internationally in English this plant is known as false heather, elfin herb, or Mexican heather.
The genus name Cuphea comes from the Greek word for kyphos, which means "crooked", "curved", or "humped. While the species name hyssopifolia means "hyssop-leaved" (Kaufman, 2022).
The Cuphea genus from the Lythraceae family has approximately 260 species of annual flowering plants originating from tropical America. Cuphea hyssopifolia or Mexican heather is believed to be originated from Mexico and Panama. However, other sources state that this plant comes from Mexico, Guatemala, and Honduras.
This plant has been introduced as an ornamental plant in various countries such as Southeast Asia including India and Indonesia, the Caribbean Islands, Hawaii and New Zealand. The seeds were first cataloged in 1877 (Kaufman, 2022).
Shape Description and Growth
Mexican heather is a perennial annual plant with a height that can reach up to 60 cm and a width that can reach up to 90 cm. The flowers that attract attention are generally lavender purple in color with long oval-shaped leaves consisting of 6 strands arranged in a circle.
The leaves are small and green with a long and straight shape. The fruit is a capsule containing small round seeds. The Mexican heather plants are widely cultivated in the form of seeds or rooted plants in pots.
The Mexican heather plant is quite tolerant of some situations, adapting easily to a variety of well-draining soils in full sun and withstanding high summer heat and slight drought, but grows best with regular moisture (Cuphea Hyssopifolia (Elfin Herb, False Heather, Hawaiian Heather, Mexican Heather) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, 2023).
Ingredients and Other Benefits of The Mexican Heather Plant for Health
Plants of the Cuphea genus have been reported to contain several compounds including tannins, flavonoids, phenolic acids, triterpenes, sterols, carbohydrates, and unsaturated fatty acids. These compounds have been further studied for their antiviral, cytotoxic, antimicrobial, anti-Helicobacter pylori, antiprotozoal, cardiovascular, antioxidant and diuretic activities.
Not only that, several species of the Cuphea genus have also been used to treat stomach aches, syphilis, gonorrhea, and are used as oral contraceptives in traditional medicine in South and Central America (Elgindi et al., 2012).
The leaves and flowers are used as a tonic and treatment for fevers and coughs and as an insecticide (Cuphea Hyssopifolia (Elfin Herb, False Heather, Hawaiian Heather, Mexican Heather) | North Carolina Extension Gardener Plant Toolbox, 2023).
However, in Indonesia, the Mexican heather plant is widely planted as an ornamental plant and is used in landscape design because it is easy to shape, adaptable, and resistant to pest attacks.