Lizard’s tail (Houttuynia cordata)
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Houttuynia cordata (Chinese: 鱼腥草; pinyin: yúxīng cǎo; literally “fishy-smell herb”), the sole species in the genus Houttuynia, is a flowering plant native to Japan, southern China and Southeast Asia, where it grows in moist, shady places.
Houttuynia is a herbaceous perennial plant growing to between 20 and 80 cm. The proximal part of the stem is trailing and produces adventitious roots, while the distal part of the stem grows vertically. The leaves are alternate, broadly heart-shaped, 4-9 cm long and 3-8 cm broad. Flowers are greenish-yellow, borne on a terminal spike 2-3 cm long with 4-6 large white basal bracts.
The plant grows well in moist to wet soil and even slightly submerged in water in partial or full sun. Plants can become invasive in gardens and difficult to eradicate. Propagation is via division.
Houttuynia in temperate gardens is usually in one of its cultivated forms, including: Chameleon (synonymous with H.c. ‘Court Jester’, H.c. ‘Tricolour’, H.c. ‘Variegata’) this variety is slightly less vigorous than the species and has leaves broadly edged in yellow and flecked with red; Flore Pleno has masses of white bracts and the vigour of the parent species.
Grown as a leaf vegetable, particularly in Vietnam, where it is called giấp cá or diếp cá and is used as a fresh herbal garnish. The leaf has an unusual taste that is often described as fishy (earning it the nickname “fish mint”), so it is not enjoyed as universally as basil, mint, or other more commonly used herbs.