Chameleon Plant

Scientific Name: Houttuynia cordata

Fact Box:

  • Order: Piperales
  • Family: Saururaceae
  • Genus: Houttuynia
  • Species: H. cordata


Named after Dutch naturalist Maarten Houttuyn, the chameleon plant is native to Asia. This edible plant has many common names, such as fish mint and Chinese lizard tail (this plant is part of the lizard tail family). Some varieties of Houttuynia cordata are multi-colored — green with red and yellow edges — giving them the name “chameleon” plant.

With heart-shaped leaves and small white and greenish flowers, the chameleon plant prefers damp soil and can often be seen near swamps or ponds. On the other hand, this hardy plant can also grow at high altitudes — even in the Himalayan mountains!


Consumable: Having a fishy taste, the chameleon plant’s leaves and roots can be eaten. Fresh, tender leaves taste especially good and are sometimes used as a garnish for salads or other dishes.

Medicinal: Helpful to the digestive and immune systems, the chameleon plant can help reduce the effects of an allergy because of its anti-histamine properties. It is also very healthy, helping prevent diabetes or obesity.

Other: The chameleon plant is sometimes used as a ground cover, but its invasive tendencies will often take over an area of land quickly. Its multi-colored effect may be very appealing — just make sure you plant them in a box or container to prevent them from taking over!

Multi-colored leaves of the chameleon plant (Source: Wikimedia Commons, no changes made)