Chilean boxthorn Vestia foetida

☠ Toxic to humans
🐾 Toxic to pets
🌸 Not blooming
🍪 Not edible
‍🌱 Hard-care
Chilean box thorn


Vestia foetida, commonly known as stinkweed due to the unpleasant odor emitted by its leaves when bruised, is a perennial shrub with a distinct appearance. Its foliage is composed of shiny, dark green leaves that are lance-shaped with slightly serrated edges. The leaves form dense clusters around the stem and give off a strong, pungent smell. The flowers of stinkweed are small and tubular, blooming in a vibrant yellow color. They are mainly found in clusters at the terminal ends of the branches, creating a visually striking contrast against the dark green of the leaves. The blooming period brings about a profusion of these flowers, which can add a splash of color to the plant's surroundings, though the odor might still be off-putting to some. Additionally, stinkweed may bear fruit, small in size and typically in the form of a berry. These fruits are relatively inconspicuous compared to its vibrant flowers and are often hidden within the foliage. The plant has a woody stem that supports its upright growth and dense leaf coverage, contributing to its bushy and lush appearance. Despite its offensive smell, stinkweed has a resilient and robust presence in the landscapes where it is found.

Plant Info
Common Problems

About this plant

  • memoNames

    • Family


    • Synonyms

      Stinking Vestia, Chilean Boxthorn, Fetid Nightshade

    • Common names

      Nicotiana foetida, Fabiana imbricata var. foetida

  • skullToxicity

    • To humans

      The plant commonly known as Chilean box shrub is considered to have a degree of toxicity to humans. If ingested, the plant may cause gastrointestinal symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. It's important to handle plants such as the Chilean box shrub with care and ensure that they are not ingested by children or adults, as consuming this plant can result in discomfort and potentially more severe health concerns if consumed in large quantities.

    • To pets

      The Chilean box shrub is also toxic to pets such as dogs and cats. Ingestion of this plant can lead to symptoms similar to those in humans, including vomiting and diarrhea, and can also cause drooling, lethargy, and abdominal pain. Pet owners should keep their animals away from the Chilean box shrub to prevent accidental ingestion, which could necessitate a visit to the veterinarian.

  • infoCharacteristics

    • Life cycle


    • Foliage type


    • Color of leaves


    • Flower color


    • Height

      6 feet (1.83 meters)

    • Spread

      6 feet (1.83 meters)

    • Plant type


    • Hardiness zones


    • Native area



  • money-bagGeneral Benefits

    • Ornamental value: Vestia foetida, commonly known as Chilean yellow shrub, is often used in ornamental gardening due to its bright yellow flowers and lush green foliage that can enhance the aesthetic of landscapes.
    • Habitat for wildlife: The Chilean yellow shrub provides natural habitat and food sources for local insects and birds, contributing to biodiversity in the area where it grows.
    • Drought tolerance: This plant is known to be drought-tolerant once established, making it suitable for xeriscaping and in areas with water scarcity or water-wise gardens.
    • Erosion control: The root system of Chilean yellow shrub can help stabilize soil and prevent erosion, particularly on slopes or in areas prone to degradation.
    • Natural fencing: Due to its dense foliage, Vestia foetida can be grown as a natural hedge or barrier, providing privacy and reducing noise pollution.
    • Cultural significance: The plant may hold cultural or traditional significance in its native habitat, contributing to the local heritage and practices.

  • medicalMedical Properties

    • Analgesic: Vestia foetida has been used to relieve pain in traditional medicine systems.
    • Anti-inflammatory: There are indications that it may have anti-inflammatory properties.
    • Antispasmodic: The plant might be used to alleviate muscle spasms.

  • windAir-purifying Qualities

    This plant is not specifically known for air purifying qualities.

  • leavesOther Uses

    • Insect Repellent: Due to its strong odor, the Vestia foetida can be used to repel certain insects from gardens or homes without the use of chemicals.
    • Ornamental Use: Although known for its distinct smell, Vestia foetida can be grown as an ornamental plant for its attractive foliage and yellow flowers.
    • Companion Planting: Gardeners may use Vestia foetida in companion planting to deter pests that are repelled by the plant's scent from more sensitive crops.
    • Cultural Significance: In some communities, Vestia foetida is used in cultural rituals or as a symbol due to its unique characteristics.
    • Teaching Aid: The plant's strong smell makes it a useful specimen for educational purposes, teaching about plant defense mechanisms and pollination strategies.
    • Privacy Screening: Dense growth of Vestia foetida can be used to create privacy screens in gardens or along property lines.
    • Soil Enrichment: When decomposed, the foliage of Vestia foetida may contribute nutrients back to the soil, potentially improving soil quality.
    • Eco-Friendly Dye: The plant could be explored as a natural source for creating dyes, given the variety of compounds present in its tissues.
    • Artistic Inspiration: Artists may use the unique appearance and qualities of Vestia foetida as inspiration for various forms of art such as painting or sculpture.
    • Mood Enhancement: Some people believe the unique scent of Vestia foetida can have mood-enhancing properties in aromatherapy outside of traditional uses.

Interesting Facts

  • bedFeng Shui

    The plant Vestia foetida, commonly known as "Chilean Boxthorn," is not used in Feng Shui practice.

  • aquariusZodiac Sign Compitability

    The Chilean Boxthorn is not used in astrology practice.

  • spiralPlant Symbolism

    • Unpleasantness: The common name 'Foetid Vestia' or 'Fetid Vestia' is derived from the Latin 'foetidus,' meaning stinking or bad-smelling. This aspect can symbolically represent things that are unpleasant or offensive, both physically and metaphorically.
    • Protection: Some cultures may interpret strong-smelling plants as a form of natural protection against evil spirits or negative energy, suggesting that Fetid Vestia might symbolize a protective barrier.
    • Resilience: Given its ability to thrive in various conditions, Fetid Vestia could symbolize resilience or adaptability despite negative connotations associated with its odor.
    • Warning: Its potent smell can serve as a natural warning symbol, signaling to stay away or be cautious—just as the plant's aroma warns animals and insects.

Every 1-2 weeks
2500 - 10000 Lux
Every 2-3 years
Spring to early summer
As needed
  • water dropWater

    The Vestia foetida, commonly known as Chilean boxthorn, should be watered deeply but infrequently, making sure the soil is well-drained. A good rule of thumb is to water once a week, providing about 1-2 gallons per watering during active growth periods in spring and summer. Reduce watering to once every two weeks or less during the fall and winter when the plant's growth slows down. It's essential to avoid waterlogging, so allow the top inch of soil to dry out before watering again. Always check the soil moisture level to gauge if the plant needs water, as overwatering can lead to root rot.

  • sunLight

    The Chilean boxthorn thrives in full sun to partial shade. Best light conditions would be a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. However, it can also adapt to less intense light situations, such as dappled sunlight, especially in hotter climates. Avoid placing it in deep shade, as this can hinder its growth and flowering potential.

  • thermometerTemperature

    The Chilean boxthorn prefers temperate climates and does well in a temperature range of 50 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit. It can endure brief periods of colder weather down to about 30 degrees Fahrenheit but should be protected from frost. The ideal temperature for the plant to flourish is between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Prolonged exposure to temperatures outside this range can stress the plant.

  • scissorsPruning

    Pruning the Chilean boxthorn is necessary to maintain its shape and encourage healthier, more robust growth. It's best to prune in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Remove any dead or damaged branches, and trim back any overgrown areas to keep the plant looking tidy. Pruning can be done annually or as needed to control the size.

  • broomCleaning

    As needed

  • bambooSoil

    For the Vestia foetida, commonly known as California boxthorn, the best soil mix is well-draining, fertile, and loamy. Incorporate sand or perlite to improve drainage, and a balanced organic compost for fertility. The ideal soil pH for California boxthorn should be slightly acidic to neutral, around 6.0 to 7.5.

  • plantRepotting

    California boxthorn should be repotted every 2-3 years to refresh the soil and to accommodate the growth of the plant. Choose a pot that is one size larger than the current one to allow for comfortable root expansion.

  • water dropsHumidity & Misting

    California boxthorn thrives at moderate humidity levels, typically ranging from 40% to 60%. It can tolerate some variation in humidity but avoid extremely dry air as it could lead to leaf damage.

  • pinSuitable locations

    • Indoor

      Ensure bright indirect light and well-draining soil mix.

    • Outdoor

      Plant in part shade, shield from harsh sun, well-draining soil.

    • Hardiness zone

      9-11 USDA

  • circleLife cycle

    Vestia foetida, commonly known as Stinkwort, starts its life cycle from a seed, which upon finding suitable moist and well-drained soil conditions, germinates. The seedling emerges with a set of initial leaves, and as the roots establish, the plant begins vegetative growth, developing a small shrubby form with leaves that release an unpleasant odor when crushed. During the flowering stage, Stinkwort produces tubular yellow to orange flowers that are typically pollinated by insects. Following pollination, flowers develop into small berry-like fruits that contain seeds, thus enabling the spread of the plant to new locations. Over time, the perennial Stinkwort plants may die back during colder seasons, only to regrow from the roots when conditions become favorable again. Seeds may also lie dormant for a period before germinating, providing the potential for new plants to emerge seasonally or when disturbances create opportune growing environments.

  • sproutPropogation

    • Propogation time

      Spring to early summer

    • Vestia foetida, commonly known as Chilean Boxthorn, is typically propagated through seed sowing. The most popular method involves collecting seeds from ripe berries of the plant when they are available, which is generally in late summer through fall. As the seeds have a fleshy coating, it is important to clean them thoroughly before sowing to increase germination rates. Once cleaned, the seeds are sown in a well-draining soil mix, lightly covered with soil, and kept moist. Chilean Boxthorn seeds require a warm environment for germination; thus, a temperature of around 70°F (21°C) is ideal. Seedlings appear in a couple of weeks, after which they can be carefully transplanted to individual pots when large enough to handle. This method of propagation through seeds allows for a large number of new plants to be grown relatively easily.