Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center - The University of Texas at Austin information

 Native Plant Database

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Flame acanthus, Hummingbird bush, Wright's desert honeysuckle, Wright acanthus, Mexican flame, Wright's Mexican flame

Acanthaceae (Acanthus Family)

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus)
Marcus, Joseph A.
Native from west and south-central Texas into adjacent northern Mexico, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii is a spreading, 3 to 5 ft. deciduous shrub with exfoliating bark; red-orange, tubular flowers; and light-green, lanceolate leaves.

Its brilliant summer-to-fall blooms, cheerful green foliage, pale bark, and ability to attract hummingbirds have made it increasingly popular in landscapes. Though found in the wild mostly in rocky, calcareous soils, it is adaptable both to the heavy soils of Houston and to the drying, confined conditions of pots. It is drought-tolerant and can survive low temperatures as far north as Dallas, though only the roots will survive the winters there and the whole plant will reemerge each year like a perennial from the ground. Though the attractive branches are somewhat brittle, it takes well to shearing and can make a dense, low hedge. As with other xeric plants within its range, rain will trigger a flush of blooms, covering the plant in fiery orange. In favorable conditions, it will seed out readily.

The species name of this plant is for Charles Wright, 1811-1885, world-wide botanical collector who collected extensively in Texas (1837-1852), Cuba, and his native Connecticut.

The Acanthus family includes trees, shrubs and herbs. Stems are square; leaves are generally without teeth or lobes, and are opposite. The flowers are 2-lipped and almost radially symmetrical. There are 24 stamens; when 4, they are in unequal pairs.

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Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial
Habit: Shrub
Root Type: Fibrous
Leaf Retention: Deciduous
Leaf Arrangement: Opposite
Leaf Complexity: Simple
Leaf Shape: Lanceolate
Leaf Venation: Pinnate
Leaf Pubescence: Glabrous
Leaf Margin: Entire
Leaf Apex: Acute
Leaf Base: Rounded
Leaf Texture: Smooth
Breeding System: Flowers Bisexual
Size Notes: Normally no more than 3 ft tall but can reach 5 ft.
Leaf: Dull light green
Flower: Flowers 3-4 cm long
Fruit: Brown capsules, black seeds 15 mm
Size Class: 3-6 ft.

Bloom Information

Bloom Color: Red , Orange
Bloom Time: Jun , Jul , Aug , Sep , Oct


Native Distribution: The northernmost variety of its species, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii ranges from south-central Texas (the southern Edwards Plateau) and west Texas into northern Mexico. Its species, Anisacanthus quadrifidus, continues south to Oaxaca in southern Mexico.
Native Habitat: Rocky banks and floodplains of streams, shrublands (matorral), and grasslands

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained sand, loam, clay, caliche, limestone. Adapts to a wide variety of soils, from rocky slopes to open areas.
Conditions Comments: This drought- and cold-tolerant shrub will adapt to a variety of soils and does well in patio pots. It blooms best in full sun but will tolerate light shade. As with many other xeric plants, rain triggers blooms.


Use Ornamental: A showy shrub with ornamental blooms for perennial gardens and other planned landscapes
Use Wildlife: Flowers attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Conspicuous Flowers: yes
Interesting Foliage: yes
Attracts: Hummingbirds , Butterflies
Larval Host: Janais Patch, Texan Crescentspot
Nectar Source: yes
Deer Resistant: High

Butterflies and Moths of North America (BAMONA)

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii is a larval host and/or nectar source for:
Texan Crescent
(Anthanassa texana)

Larval Host
Learn more at BAMONA

Last Update: 2010-09-25