by Stephen Mifsud
   6 Feb 2023      ()
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Achyranthes sicula   (Devil's horsewhip)

Achyranthes sicula  (AMARANTHACEAE.) 
Images for this profile are taken from the Maltese Islands after year 2000.

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Profile Date Feb-2019 (taxon update: none)
Citation for this page Mifsud, S. (2022). Achyranthes sicula - datasheet created on Feb-2019. Retrieved from on 06-Feb-2023

Nomenclature and Basic Information

Species name :

Achyranthes sicula(L.) All.
Published in Mélang. Philos. Math. Soc. Roy. Turin (Misc. Taur.) 5: 93 (1774)

Synonyms :
(basionym or principal syn.)

Achyranthes aspera var. sicula L.
Full list of synonyms : [Euro+Med] [PlantList] [IPNI] [POWO] [Catalogue of Life] []

Plant Family :

Amaranthaceae Juss. (The Amaranth Family)
42 species from the Amaranthaceae family are recorded from the Maltese Islands.

English name(s) :

Devil's horsewhip, Prickly chaff flower

Maltese name(s) :

Maltese name not known

Status for Malta :

Naturalised Alien. Species that was introduced in Malta after year 1492 (Columbus' discovery of the New World) and spreads and integrates to form established, non-invasive populations. Species may become become invasive if it widespreads rapidly.

Frequency :

Very Common     Common    Frequent     Scarce     Rare    Very rare    Extinct

Growth form :

Raunkiaer lifeform [info]: THEROPHYTE ( annual plants, herbaceous )
Germination [info]: Dicotyledon

Legal Protection :

Not legally protected till the last update of this website (2/Mar/2022)

Red List (1989) :

Not listed in the Red Data Book of the Maltese Islands

Flowering Time :

March – June

Colour of Flowers:

Purple or Inconspicuous


Not particularly toxic

Name Derivation :

Achyranthes: From the Greek achyr (=chaff, grain husks) and anthos (=flower) with reference to the shape of the flowers. (Greek origin )
sicula: Originating from or related to Sicily. (Latin origin )

Planting in rural areas :

Can be planted in rural areas according to ERA Guidelines

Remarks :

Found naturalised in a rocky and arid valley bed by Stephen Mifsud. Matthew Fenech observed a dense population in a yard at Floriana, possibly introduced from seed dispersal at a public garden in close vicinity. The species is native to Sicily and southwest Europe. Since only one population is found in natural habitat, the Maltese population is best considered as an introduction. However, if it is found elsewhere in similar habitat, this species can be safely assumed to be native.

Description, Habitat and Distribution
Habitat in Europe: Ruderal preferring disturbed areas
Preferred habitat in Malta: Horticultural escape becoming invasive if habitat is suitable, forming extensive populations.
Botanical Description: Perennial, woody below, stem only slightly pubescent to nearly glabrous. Leaves opposite, ovate to ovate-oblong, densely silvery-sericeous beneath. Inflorescence long, lax, spicate. Flowers erect, becoming deflexed. Perianth-segments 4 or 5, narrowly lanceolate, becoming indurate and ribbed, pedicellate, somewhat shining, green. Bracteoles glabrous, awned. Perianth about twice as long as the bracteoles. Stamens (2-)5; filaments connate below into a tube. Teeth alternating with stamens, entire at the apex. Fruits deflexed.
Distributional range: Southern part of W. Mediterranean region

Distributional map in Europe
and the Mediterranean region (2018):
Occurrences in Europe.
(from Flora Europaea pre year 1993):
Spain (incl. Andorra but excl. the Balaerics), Italy (excl. Sicily and Sardignia), Sardinia, Sicily and/or Malta
Occurrences in Europe and the Mediterranean region.
(from Euro+Med Checklist, 2019)
  Country codes  
Ag Ca Eg Hs(G) Ir It Jo LS Ma Md(M) Sa Sg Si(S) Tn [aAE nAg nAz(F M S) -Gr nHs(S)]

Links & Further literature (0 papers)

Google Web

Google Images

Google Scholar

Research Gate




Med Checklist

Cat. of Life



World Flora Online

Plants of the World Online

Vienna Virt. Herb.

RBGE Herbarium

KEW Herbarium




Kindly Email if there are papers and publications about local studies or information about this species to be included in the list above.

Species Images (7 images)
   Achyranthes sicula   -   Image Code: AYASI-0.
   Achyranthes sicula   -   Image Code: AYASI-1.
   Achyranthes sicula   -   Image Code: AYASI-2.
   Achyranthes sicula   -   Image Code: AYASI-3.
   Achyranthes sicula   -   Image Code: AYASI-4.
   Achyranthes sicula   -   Image Code: AYASI-5.
   Achyranthes sicula   -   Image Code: AYASI-6.

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Section B:   Where have you seen this plant on the Maltese Islands?
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