Clerodendrum japonicum: Japanese glory bower

Family: Lamiaceae
Common name: Japanese glory bower, Glorybower, Red glory bower, Bag flower

Japanese glory bower flowers are so beautiful, it is surprising that they are not grown as ornamental plants in home gardens. These plants are mostly seen in the wild, in backyards, empty plots, and on roadsides.

They are sturdy, erect plants growing to a height of about 2 meters terminating in large bunches of red flowers, arranged in beautiful layers. Leaves are almost heart-shaped at the base and pointy at the tip and also have 2 more points on either side.

Petioles connecting the leaves to the stem are 8-10 centimeters long, and look like radiating spokes from the erect, central stem.
The stem is quadrangular in cross-section, hairy when young, and woody when they mature.

The inflorescence is a large, about 30 cms tall, pyramid-like panicle with 10-18 bunches of flowers radiating from the center. Individual flowers have 3 whitish-red petals, prominent red stamens, and style. Japanese glory bower plants usually grow in clusters in the wild, their deep red flowers looking like decorations.

These bright, beautiful flowers attract insects and bees, that help pollinate them. Once pollinated, the plant produces small fruits that are about 1 cm in diameter, that turn purple-black with ripe.

Japanese glory bowers are very similar to Pagoda flowers or Clerodendrum paniculatum, the only difference being the length of calyx and stamens. Another Clerodendrum species commonly found in India is Clerodendrum infortunatum or Hill glory bower, which has similar leaves, but white flowers.

Japanese glory bower plants are very common in Asian countries like China, Nepal, Philippines, Taiwan, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Tibet. They have some medicinal use in traditional herbal medicine, in the treatment of nose bleeds, boils, and gonorrhea.

These are easy to grow and need very little care. They prefer good sunlight, but are tolerant of drought, poor soil conditions, salinity, and neglect. In the wild, the seeds fall on the ground and produce new plants, resulting in small clusters of Japanese glory bower plants growing together.

Urbanization has resulted in some of these common wild plants disappearing from our neighborhoods.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.

Image credits: Sunny Varghese