Odontonema cuspidatum – Mottled Toothedthread

Odontonema cuspidatum - Mottled Toothedthread, Firespike, Fire Spike

Odontonema cuspidatum - Mottled Toothedthread, Firespike, Fire Spike

Plant Name

Scientific Name: Odontonema cuspidatum

Synonyms: Odontonema strictum hort., Thyrsacanthus cuspidatus

Common Names: Mottled Toothedthread, Firespike, Fire Spike

Plant Characteristics

Duration: Perennial, Evergreen

Growth Habit: Subshrub, Herb/Forb

Hawaii Native Status: Introduced. This naturalized ornamental garden plant is native to Mexico.

Flower Color: Scarlet red

Height: To 5 feet (1.5 m) tall

Description: The flowers are in 3 to 5-branched, terminal panicles. The individual flowers are up to 1 1/5 inches (3 cm) long and tubular with 5 triangular-ovate lobes. Although this plant doesn't always produce seed, the flowers may be followed by hairless, club-shaped seed capsules. The leaves have short petioles and pinnate venation and are green, opposite, and ovate-elliptic in shape with a long, tapering, pointed tip. The stems are upright, branched, and semi-woody.

These thicket-forming plants grow in disturbed areas in sunny to shady, moist to mesic (moderately wet), low to middle elevation forests. These plants can spread by root, stem, or seed, and some populations may be due to the dumping of garden waste.

The similar Firespike (Odontonema tubiforme, formerly O. strictum) is a shrub and has pinkish red flowers. Some sources still consider O. tubiforme and O. cuspidatum to be the same species. The O. strictum sold in plant nurseries is typically O. cuspidatum.

Special Characteristics

Butterfly Plant – In sunny locations, the nectar-filled flowers attract butterflies.


Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
Subclass: Asteridae
Order: Scrophulariales
Family: Acanthaceae – Acanthus family
Genus: Odontonema Nees – toothedthread
Species: Odontonema cuspidatum (Nees) Kuntze – mottled toothedthread