How to Identify Gotu Kola Plants

by Sarah Mason

Native to Asia, gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is an herbaceous perennial that grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 7 to 11. Sometimes also referred to as pennywort or coinwort, gotu kola is best known for its use in ancient Indian, Chinese and Indonesian medicine, though it is still used in herbal remedies and ointments today. If grown at home, use caution; gotu kola can cause skin irritation and is harmful if ingested. Correct identification will ensure safe plant interaction and proper care.

1 Measure the width of the plant's leaves with a ruler. Gotu kola leaves grow to be between 1 and 1.5 inches wide.

2 Examine the shape of the plant's leaves. Gotu kola leaves are kidney-shaped, with a V-shaped slot where the leaf joins the stem. In addition, gotu kola leaves often have serrated edges, which appear uneven, similar to the edge of a fan.

3 Look for gotu kola's creeping, mounding habit. Gotu kola spreads low over the ground; total width of a single plant can be between 8 and 36 inches.

4 Study the plant's petioles for a pink or purple tinge. The petiole is the long stalk that joins a leaf to a stem, also called a leafstalk. Gotu kola petioles tend to grow longer when in the shade and can have a pinkish-purple color.

5 Examine the stem node -- the spot where the petiole connects to the stem -- for tiny pink flowers, usually 0.2 inches wide in clusters of two to four. Gotu kola flowers are often hidden under leaves and are so small that they are easily overlooked.

Items you will need

  • Ruler
  • Gloves

Tips

  • Wear gloves when examining unknown plants to minimize plant-to-skin contact.
  • Consider the USDA zone where you found the plant, to see if it matches gotu kola's USDA zone range of 7 to 11.

Warning

  • Gotu kola can be harmful if ingested.