Yesterday my friend Don Steiny talked up the benefits of the herb bacopa as an aid to memory. I’m cautious about herbal remedies, but I found the name familiar — and eventually realized I knew it as a very pretty (but not showy) plant related to the medicinal herb.

I’ll start with Don’s bacopa. From Wikipedia:

Bacopa is a genus of 70 – 100 aquatic plants belonging to the family Plantaginaceae. It is commonly known as Waterhyssop (or Water Hyssop, though this is more misleading as Bacopa is not very closely related to hyssop but simply has a somewhat similar appearance).

Bacopa species are found in tropical and subtropical regions of the world, particularly the Americas. A few are regarded as weeds and excess stock should not be dumped in warmer regions. Most grow in moist amphibious conditions, though some like B. myriophylloides seem to be wholly aquatic.

B. monnieri syn. Herpestis monniera, is important in Ayurvedic medicine and has been used, particularly in India, for several thousand years to improve mental functioning, including comprehension (Dhi), memory (Dhriti) and recollection (Smriti).


On B. monnieri specifically:

Bacopa monnieri (waterhyssop, brahmi, thyme-leafed gratiola, water hyssop) is a perennial, creeping herb whose habitat includes wetlands and muddy shores. Brahmi is also the name given to Centella asiatica, particularly in North India, and Kerala

On the name (not in the OED), from a site on the plants of Hawaii:

The [name of the] genus Bacopa is a Latinized form of the aboriginal name of these plants used by the indigenous people of French Guiana.

The specific epithet monnieri is probably named for the French naturalist Louis-Guillaume Le Monnier (1717-1799).

On centenella:

Centella asiatica, commonly centella …, is a small, herbaceous, annual plant of the family Mackinlayaceae or subfamily Mackinlayoideae of family Apiaceae, and is native to India, Sri Lanka, northern Australia, Indonesia, Iran, Malaysia, Melanesia, Papua New Guinea, and other parts of Asia. It is used as a medicinal herb in Ayurvedic medicine, traditional African medicine, and traditional Chinese medicine. Botanical synonyms include Hydrocotyle asiatica L. and Trisanthus cochinchinensis (Lour.). (link)


Then there’s the plant I knew (and grew in my Columbus OH garden): the terrestrial bacopa (Sutera cordata), used as a hanging basket or bedding plant:

Sutera cordata also known by the name Bacopa or Ornamental Bacopa (not to be confused with the genus of that name) is a species in the genus Sutera (Scrophulariaceae) and is now more properly called Chaenostoma cordata, and best known in its cultivated forms. (link)


This is the popular cultivar Snowstorm. A very pretty little plant.

Bacopa monnieri and Centella asiatica are similar in their uses, in herbal medicine. Bacopa monnieri and Sutera cordata have very similar flowers, but quite different leaves and manners of growth (the first being amphibious, the second terrestrial).

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