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Creeping Inch Plant (Callisia Repens)

The creeping inch plant, scientifically known as Callisia repens, is an herbaceous plant that competes with indigenous plants and has the potential to replace them.

It is an ornamental plant common in gardens as a ground cover and in hanging baskets or patios.

The plant is identified by its green and purple succulent leaves and multi-branched stems that form roots at their nodes.

Scientific Classification

  • Domain: Eukaryota
  • Kingdom: Plantae
  • Phylum: Magnoliophyta
  • Class: Monocotyledonae
  • Order: Commelinales
  • Family: Commelinaceae
  • Genus: Callisia
  • Species: Callisia Repens
  • Other Names: Callisia hexandra, Hapalanthus repens, Tradescantia callisia, Tradescantia repens, Bolivian Jew, Creeping Basket Plant, Creeping Inch Plant, Inch Plant, Turtle Vine

Nativity and Distribution

Callisia Repens grows in subtropical to tropical forests in shady, rocky, or gravelly habitats. The plant is native to Mexico, South America, the West Indies, and Central America.

The plant is also found in the following areas:

  • The Caribbean
  • Mexico
  • Argentina

Physical Appearance and Characteristics

The creeping inch plant has a dense cluster of succulent green and purple leaves
The creeping inch plant has a dense cluster of succulent green and purple leaves. Image: Canva/akchamczuk
  • Leaves: Green leaves on the cover and purple on the reverse with many tiny spots.
  • Flowers: Small white flowers arranged in clusters with dark spots and reddish stems. 
  • Fruits: The fruit is approximately 1.7 mm long and has a lenticular capsule that splits from apex to base. 
  • Stems: Multibranched stems that form roots at their nodes.
  • Seeds: The seeds appear brown with rough surfaces. 
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The plant’s leaves are arranged alternately on either side of the stem and are ovate, measuring 1-4 cm long and 1-2 cm wide. They are normally 1–3.5 centimeters long and 0.6–1 centimeters wide. 

In addition, Callisia repen leaves form dense clusters and cover the soil adequately to minimize evaporation. They start as green but change to purple when exposed to enough light. 

The creeping inch plant flowers are bisexual, pistillate, and subsessile. They appear in the summer and have no scent.

The stems form roots at the nodes, allowing the plant to grow horizontally and thus creep on the edges of containers where it is planted.

Reproduction, Dispersal, and Life Cycle

  • Life Cycle: Perennial
  • Seeds: Small seeds that are brown in color
  • Climate: Grows in temperatures between 65-75 degrees Fahrenheit and moderate to high humidity levels
  • Dispersal: The seed is mainly spread by dumped garden waste and water

Callisia repen reproduces both sexually and asexually. In sexual reproduction, the plant produces white flowers that develop into capsule fruits containing two seeds per locule.

Animals, garden waste, and water then disperse these seeds. 

Asexually, the creeping inch plant’s stems form roots at the nodes that contribute to the plant’s mat-forming growth pattern.

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The creeping inch plant can spread by the lateral elongation of stems and cover large areas quickly. Therefore, they are highly likely to invade and colonize new habitats. 

The plant can also be propagated through tip cuttings throughout the growing season, usually in spring or early summer. 

Uses

Callisia repen is mostly used as an ornamental plant for its beautiful green and purple leaves
Callisia repen is mostly used as an ornamental plant for its beautiful green and purple leaves. Image: Canva/pixelshot
  1. Callisia repen is used as an ornamental plant in gardens and houses due to its beautiful green and purple leaves.
  2. The plant’s sweet and fleshy fruits provide food to native birds. 

Impact on Environment

The creeping inch plant has a smothering ground cover effect, which makes it a high weed risk.

It spreads extremely fast, creating dense mats that prevent the germination and establishment of native plants. 

Control

The following control methods are effective for Callisa Repens:

  • Mechanical hand pulling: Pulling out the weed or digging out is effective, especially for small infestations. You don’t really need a weed-pulling tool unless you are removing the plant from a large area.
  • Herbicides: Herbicides that control creeping plants, such as glyphosate, imazapyr, or triclopyr, are recommended.