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Houttuynia grows as a dense groundcover that spreads rapidly. The leaves are heart-shaped and up to 7cm long. They are usually multi-coloured in shades of green, cream, bronze, and scarlet, but may be plain green. When the leaves are crushed they smell of pepper, coriander, or orange. Houttuynia produces clusters of small white flowers.
Houttuynia favours damp, shady sites in wetlands, gardens, riparian margins, forest, and shrubland. It can live in water as well as in soil. It is usually found in gardens but has the potential to spread into a range of habitats.
Houttuynia grows rapidly to form a dense groundcover. Its rampant growth can rapidly displace native plants in forest and wetland ecosystems.
Cuttings and fragments of houttuynia can easily take root and form new infestations. Once established, Houttuynia can cover large areas assisted by creeping stems and an extensive root system. Houttuynia will also set viable seed in New Zealand.