Porcupine flower is an erect, prickly shrub, usually single-stemmed, growing
to about 1.5 m tall. The stems and branches are stiff and smooth and light
brown to light grey in colour. The leaves are up to 100 mm long and 40 mm
wide, and oval-shaped though narrow at both ends (ellipsoid) The base of the
leaves is protected by three to five sharp, pale coloured spines, 10-20 mm
long. The yellow-orange tubular flowers are found bunched tightly together at
the top of the plant, but they also occur singly at the base of leaves. The
flowers are 40 mm long and tubular, with several long protruding stamens.
The seed capsule is oval-shaped and 13-20 mm long, with a sharp pointed beak.
It contains two fairly large, flat seeds, typically 8 mm long by 5 mm wide,
covered with matted hairs. Barleria has a central tap root, with lateral roots
branching off in all directions.
It has numerous medicinal properties including
treating fever, respiratory diseases, toothache, joint pains and a variety
of other ailments; and it has several cosmetic uses. A mouthwash made
from root tissue is used to relieve toothache and treat bleeding gums.
The whole plant, leaves, and roots are used for a variety of purposes in
traditional Indian medicine. For example, the leaves are used to promote
healing of wounds and to relieve joint pains and toothache. Because of its
antiseptic properties, extracts of the plant are incorporated into herbal
cosmetics and hair products to promote skin and scalp health.