Cyanotis cristata: Crested Cat Ears

Family: Commelinaceae
Common name: Crested Cat Ears, Crested Dew-Grass

Crested Cat Ears plants are very common in India, seen in backyards, open areas, roadsides, agricultural areas, and almost anywhere. They spread very quickly with their long, rounded, succulent stems that are sparsely hairy, growing to a length of 50-60 cms.

Leaves are 4-8 cms long, fleshy, bright green with thin white hairs along the margins. Crested Cat Ears leaves are sessile, attached directly to the stem with their bases curving around the stem. These leaves turn dull green or even red when growing in harsh sunlight.

Bright purple flowers with 3 distinct, wide petals dot the stem at regular intervals making the plant very pretty and distinguishable. These flowers have thin purple styles crowded at the center, with bright yellow anthers on top.

The flowers grow from beautifully folded spathes that dry out once they finish flowering. After pollination, the flowers produce small globose capsules that contain tiny 1mm seeds.

Crested Cat Ear plants are considered invasive since they can grow very quickly, quashing the growth of other plants nearby. They are mostly found in tropical countries in warm, humid weather. These plants are tolerant to drought, capable of living without water for a few weeks.

The name Cyanotis means ‘blue’ referring to the color of the flowers, and the name cristata means ‘crested’ denoting the crown of blue styles that adorn the flowers.

Cattle prefer this as a forage plant, and it is also used as a vegetable in some parts of the world. Some studies show that leaf extracts of Crested Cat Ears plants help in healing of wounds, cuts and burns. It also helps in treatment of swelling and snake bites.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.