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According to Mabberley (1987), 85 species in 16 genera are to be found in tropical and North America, southern Africa, Australia, and New Guinea. They are perennial herbs with tubers or short rhizomes which typically contain red pigment. The family is related to the Liliaceae. Brummitt (1992) recognises only 14 genera.

Some are cultivated as ornamentals. Perhaps the best known are the various kangaroo paws and cat's paws (Anigozanthos Labill. spp.) from Australia.

Ingestion of the red pigment found in the roots of at least one member of the Haemodoraceae appears to have the potential to cause photosensitisation in white-skinned pigs.

Anigozanthos flavidus DC.
[syns Anigosia flavida Salisb., Anigozanthos coccineus Lindl. ex Paxton, Anigozanthos flavescens Steud., Anigozanthos grandiflorus Salisb., Anigozanthos manglesii Maund, Schwaegrichenia flavida Spreng.]
Evergreen Kangaroo Paw, Tall Kangaroo Paw, Yellow Kangaroo Paw

Anigozanthos Flavidus Extract / Flower Extract / & Flower/Leaf Extract [INCI; CAS RN 223749-17-5]a are recognised cosmetic product ingredients purported to have skin conditioning, hair conditioning, antiseborrhoeic, and/or emollient properties (Standing Committee on Cosmetic Products 2019, CosIng 2023/4).

Lachnanthes caroliniana Dandy
[syns Dilatris caroliana Lam., Gyrotheca tinctoria Salisb., Heritiera gmelini Michx., Heritiera tinctorium J.Gmelin, Lachnanthes tinctoria Elliott, Lachnanthes tinctorum Sprague]
Paint Root, Red Root, Redleg

The root yields a red dye which is reputed to have photosensitising activity in white-skinned pigs and to produce a pink discoloration of their bones (Blum 1941). This reputation appears to derive from the following passage in Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species (1869, p. 13):

" … From facts collected by Heusinger, it appears that white sheep and pigs are injured by certain plants, whilst dark-coloured individuals escape: Professor Wyman has recently communicated to me a good illustration of this fact; on asking some farmers in Florida how it was that all their pigs were black, they informed him that the pigs ate the paint-root (Lachnanthes), which coloured their bones pink, and which caused the hoofs of all but the black varieties to drop off; and one of the "crackers" (i.e. Florida squatters) added, "we select the black members of a litter for raising, as they alone have a good chance of living." … "

The genus Lachnanthes is monotypic. However, a good deal of confusion has arisen regarding the nomenclature of this plant. The genus name has been variously presented by its original author (Stephen Elliott) as Lachnanthus and Lachmanthes as well as Lachnanthes; and variations of each of the specific epithets have also appeared (tinctoria, tinctorum; caroliana, caroliniana). There is further potential for confusion of this plant with an unrelated tree named Heritiera tinctoria Blanco, which is a member of the family Malvaceae.

Kornfeld & Edwards (1972) investigated extracts of the flowers, seed pods, and roots for phototoxicity against Staphylococcus epidermidis as a test organism. No significant effect was seen with the flower and root extracts but very extensive killing of the test organisms was observed using seed pod extract or a hydrolysed root extract. Lachnanthocarpone [CAS RN 28241-21-6], a major constituent perinaphthenone pigment of the seed pods, exhibited phototoxicity in the same test system but was not active enough to account for the observed phototoxicity of the seed pod extract or hydrolysed root extract. Phytochemical details were reported in an earlier publication (see Edwards & Weiss 1970).



  • Blum HF (1941) Photodynamic Action and Diseases Caused by Light. New York: Reinhold Publishing Corp.
  • Brummitt RK (1992) Vascular Plant Families and Genera. Kew: Royal Botanic Gardens [WorldCat]
  • CosIng (2023/4) COSING Ingredients-Fragrance Inventory. [online article]: https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/cosing/pdf/COSING_Ingredients-Fragrance%20Inventory_v2.pdf ; accessed March 2023 [url] [url-2]
  • Darwin C (1869) On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, 5th edn. London: John Murray [WorldCat] [url] [url-2]
  • Edwards JM, Weiss U (1970) Perinaphthenone pigments from the fruit capsules of Lachnanthes tinctoria. Phytochemistry 9(7): 1653-1657 [doi] [url]
  • Kornfeld JM, Edwards JM (1972) An investigation of the photodynamic pigments in extracts of Lachnanthes tinctoria. Biochimica et Biophysica Acta – General Subjects 286(1): 88-90 [doi] [pmid]
  • Mabberley DJ (1987) The Plant-Book. A portable dictionary of the higher plants. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
  • Standing Committee on Cosmetic Products (2019) Commission Decision (EU) 2019/701 of 5 April 2019 establishing a glossary of common ingredient names for use in the labelling of cosmetic products. Official Journal of the European Union 62(L 121): 1-370 [url] [url-2]

Richard J. Schmidt

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