Henna: Lawsonia Inermis
Catherine Cartwright-Jones © 2004
Henna; Lawsonia Inermis

Henna is Lawsonia Inermis, family Lythraceae

Articles on the Botany and Chemistry of Henna:

Henna is a small tree or large shrub, growing to six meters high. It has lateral branches with leaves that grow in pairs, two to four centimeters. long.

Henna Branch

Henna is a juvenile plant for the first two years.  The leaves do not have high lawsone content, and the branches do not have thorns. In mature plants, thorns develop at the leaf buds during dormant phases. When hungry animals come to nibble the new leaves, they prick their tongues on the thorns and go look for another plant to eat.


Henna leaves have a red-orange dye, lawsone, and the highest dye concentration is in the petiole (the central vein).  Young leaves have the highest petiole dye content.  Older leaves have lower dye content. In the picture below, you can see the higher concentration of Lawsone in the petiole (the central vein ) of the smaller, younger leaves.  All leaves were taken from a 3 year old potted plant in a growth surge during a period of 95
fahrenheit (35 celsius) weather with 2 cm per week precipitation.

leaves with lawsone
High lawsone in petiole of younger leaves at left
Actual size of largest leaf 4 cm

Henna will only grow where minimum temperatures stay above 50 degrees fahrenheit or 11 celsius. It will tolerate extreme heat and long droughts.  It grows wild near desert oasis, and in semi-aid regions. It thrives in alluvial soils, where there is annual precipitation of 0.2 to 4.2 meters and a soil pH of 4.3 to 8.0 (4.1-31). Its growth range is detailed in the map at "The Geography of Henna" . In ideal conditions, such as detailed in "Henna Farming in Pakistan",  and "Where is henna grown, processed and exported in India?" , the plant is cultivated for body art quality henna.  In slightly less than ideal conditions, it is cultivated for hair quality henna.  In cooler, more moist conditions, it is cultivated as a flowering hedgerow shrub. It can be grown as a houseplant in cooler climates.

The flowers  are fragrant, and may be white, red, pink or yellow.  The four-petaled flowers grow in a branching clusters like a cluster of lilac blossoms.  For more information on henna flowers, go HERE or click on the image below:

Henna Cluster

In the southern and western Mediterranean countries, henna flowers bloom in April and May.  The henna fruits ripen at the end of the summer. In each henna fruit there is an average of 40 - 45 seeds.

Henna Fruits

Henna seeds are very small and polygonal.

henna seeds
Henna Seeds: actual size of seed is 1 - 2 mm

The plant can be propagated by rooting the cuttings, or sewing seeds.  For more information on sprouting seeds, go HERE: Germinating Seeds by Mark Foster
Henna Blossoms are so fragrant, they've been used in perfumes since 1500 BCE.  They were the Prophet Mohammed's favorite scent. Would you like to smell them?  The Henna Page send you a sample each of three kinds of Henna Blossom Attar.  These samples are a few drops of each attar oil on a cotton ball, just enough for you to experience the wonderful fragrances!  Henna flower attars are called Gulhina Attar and are produced commercially in Uttar Pradesh, India.

Click HERE to investigate henna flower perfumes


Return to the Index of Henna: Lawsonia Inermis


Abid & Company (Pvt) Ltd.
Lahore, Pakistan: Jamila Henna

Bakshi, G
Flora of the Murshidabad District, West Gengal
Scientific Publishers, Jodhpur, India, 1984
Hepper, N., and Friis, I.

Field, H.
Body Marking in Southwestern Asia
Peabody Museum of Archaeology and Ethnology, Harvard University, 1958

Hepper, N., and Friis, I.
The Plants of Pehr Forsskal's "Flora Ageyptiaco-Arabica"
Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, in association with the Botanical Museum, Copenhagen

Shanks, H.
In the Temple of Solomon and the Tomb of Caiaphas
Biblical Archaeology Society 1993

Shelmerdine, C
The Perfume Industry of Mycenaean Pylos
Paul Astroms Forlag, Goteborg, 1985

Zecharia Douri

Eshkol ha Kofer

Can't find what you're looking for?  Try:

The Henna Page Main Index 
*"Henna, the Joyous Body Art" 
the Encyclopedia of Henna
Catherine Cartwright-Jones c 2000 
registered with the US Library of Congress
TXu 952-968