Cooley's Water-willow / Center For Plant Conservation
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Plant Profile

Cooley's Water-willow (Justicia cooleyi)

Flowers, open from August to December, have fused petals that form a 10 mm long, two-lipped corolla, with the lower lip longer than the upper. Photo Credit: © 1991 Steve Shirah
  • Global Rank: G2 - Imperiled
  • Legal Status: Federally Endangered
  • Family: Fabaceae
  • State: FL
  • Nature Serve ID: 161309
  • Lifeform: Forb/herb
  • Date Inducted in National Collection: 04/04/1991

Cooley's water-willow is a small but lovely plant. It is a short, rhizomatous, perennial herb that grows to less than 40 cm (16 inches) tall. Justicia cooleyi has upright, square stems that are covered with hairs. Its flowers, which open from August to December, are borne on forked, zigzag branches that are slightly longer that the leaves (up to 5 cm long). The petals are fused into a 10 mm long, two-lipped corolla with a slightly longer lower lip. The lower lip is mottled lavender and white, while the rest of the corolla is bright lavender-rose. Tiny, but worth the look. This rare species differs from its more common relative, Justicia ovata, because it has thin leaves, dense overall hairiness, and a dark velvety flower lip. (FNAI 2000)

Where is Cooley's Water-willow (Justicia cooleyi) located in the wild?


Justicia cooleyi is endemic to middle peninsular Florida, in the Brooksville Ridge. It is found in dense-to-lightly shaded areas in hardwood or hardwood-pine hammocks, along meandering streams or small gullies, and on low rises within swamp-woodland hammocks. Soils are either fine sandy or silty clay loams. (Kral 1983)Trees found in association with this species include southern magnolia, black gum, sweet gum, live oak, laurel oak, pignut hickory, cabbage palm, flowering dogwood, and yaupon holly. Understory associates include ferns, woodland grasses, and sedges. Fires are rare or do not occur at all, and the weather is temperate. As stated earlier, these are small plants, and they can easily get lost among the vegetation. (USFWS 1990)


Justicia cooleyi is a native to the Brooksville Ridge in north Central Hernando County. All populations have been found in that area (USFWS 1990).

States & Provinces:

Cooley's Water-willow can be found in Florida

Which CPC Partners conserve Cooley's Water-willow (Justicia cooleyi)?

CPC's Plant Sponsorship Program provides long term stewardship of rare plants in our National Collection. We are so grateful for all our donors who have made the Plant Sponsorship Program so successful. We are in the process of acknowledging all our wonderful plant sponsorship donors on our website. This is a work in progress and will be updated regularly.

Conservation Actions

Tina Stanley
  • 05/11/2023
  • Orthodox Seed Banking

According to a March 2023 extract of the Florida Plant Rescue Database, Bok Tower Gardens holds 8 accessions of Justicia cooleyi totalling approximately 5915 seeds.

Nature Serve Biotics
  • 05/02/2017

A species with an extremely limited range: the Florida Natural Areas Inventory's database currently contains 17 occurrence records from Hernando, Sumter, and Lake counties, Florida. The species' habitat is declining in quality and extent due to logging, limerock and phosphate mining, agriculture, residential development, and exotic plant encroachment.

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Limerock mining. Clearcutting hardwood forests. Agricultural and residential development. (FNAI 2000) Toll road development (Sierra Sun 2000).

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Five sites (Brooksville Ridge) plus 1 new site in Sumter Co. Seventeen populations are known; about half are in conservation areas. (FNAI 2000)

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

None known.

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

A monitoring plant for this species has been prepared (Landry 1995)

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Coordinated program to protect hardwood forest habitat. Thorough search to accurately determine Cooley's water-willow's distribution and abundance. Eradicate invasive plants. Monitor and protect known roadside populations. (USFWS 1990; FNAI 2000)

S.K. Maddox
  • 01/01/2010

Continue work with the plant as part of the Center for Plant Conservation at Historic Bok Sanctuary.


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Taxon Justicia cooleyi
Authority Monachino & Leonard
Family Fabaceae
CPC Number 2374
ITIS 34354
Duration Perennial
Common Names Cooley's Justicia | Cooley's water-willow
Associated Scientific Names Justicia cooleyi
Distribution Justicia cooleyi is a native to the Brooksville Ridge in north Central Hernando County. All populations have been found in that area (USFWS 1990).
State Rank
State State Rank
Florida S2
Ecological Relationships


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