This hardy little plant is easily overlooked by all but the most dedicated bushwalkers (or bush regenerators!). It is from the Acanthaceae family, which has around 40 species of herbs and small shrubs in Australia. Pseuderanthemum variabile is a small erect herb with stems 10-30cm tall, with strong, creeping roots. The opposite leaves are usually dark green, although as the name suggests, can vary greatly in colour and size. They are around 2-7cm long, often have pale grey-purple, sometimes reddish, markings on the veins, and may be quite hairy.
This hardy herb grows in most forest situations in our area, and although it prefers moist rainforest or wet sclerophyll forest situations, it will tolerate drier conditions as well. It survived the droughts of 2018-19 very well indeed.
It flowers in late summer with pretty little tubular flowers that are generally pale pink-mauve, around 2cm wide with five unequal lobes (petal-like structures) that may have purple markings on them. Its pretty flowers are a pleasant bushland encounter when there is not very much else flowering in the height of summer, and form an important part of the diet of some caterpillars of several butterfly species in the Nymphalidae,including Doleschallia bisaltide, Hypolimnas alimena, Hypolimnas bolina, Hypolimnas misippus and Junonia orithya.
Although common, this groundcover is part of a suite of native plants that play an important, but often unnoticed role in biodiversity structure and function.