Para Cress, Toothache Plant, Eyeball Plant

Acmella oleracea

Family: Asteraceae (ass-ter-AY-see-ee) (Info)
Genus: Acmella (ak-MEL-uh) (Info)
Species: oleracea (awl-lur-RAY-see-uh) (Info)
Synonym:Spilanthes oleracea
Synonym:Spilanthes acmella
Synonym:Spilanthes ocymifolia



Tropicals and Tender Perennials

Water Requirements:

Average Water Needs; Water regularly; do not overwater

Sun Exposure:

Sun to Partial Shade


Grown for foliage



Foliage Color:



12-18 in. (30-45 cm)


12-15 in. (30-38 cm)


USDA Zone 9b: to -3.8 C (25 F)

USDA Zone 10a: to -1.1 C (30 F)

USDA Zone 10b: to 1.7 C (35 F)

USDA Zone 11: above 4.5 C (40 F)

Where to Grow:

Can be grown as an annual

Suitable for growing in containers



Bloom Color:


Bright Yellow

Bloom Characteristics:

Flowers are good for cutting

Flowers are good for drying and preserving

This plant is attractive to bees, butterflies and/or birds

Bloom Size:

Unknown - Tell us

Bloom Time:

Mid Summer

Late Summer/Early Fall

Blooms repeatedly

Other details:

Unknown - Tell us

Soil pH requirements:

6.1 to 6.5 (mildly acidic)

6.6 to 7.5 (neutral)

Patent Information:


Propagation Methods:

From seed; sow indoors before last frost

From seed; direct sow after last frost

Seed Collecting:

Allow seedheads to dry on plants; remove and collect seeds

Properly cleaned, seed can be successfully stored


This plant has been said to grow in the following regions:

Phoenix, Arizona

North Little Rock, Arkansas

Fremont, California

Lakeland, Florida

Loxahatchee, Florida

Port Orange, Florida

Saint Petersburg, Florida

Savannah, Georgia

Villa Rica, Georgia

Louisville, Kentucky

Prospect, Kentucky

Covington, Louisiana

Cumberland, Maryland

Saucier, Mississippi

Rogersville, Missouri

Elizabeth City, North Carolina

Columbia Station, Ohio

Hulbert, Oklahoma

Cookeville, Tennessee

Hendersonville, Tennessee

Middleton, Tennessee

Austin, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas

Houston, Texas

Kerrville, Texas

Richmond, Texas

Victoria, Texas

show all

Gardeners' Notes:


On Sep 14, 2011, blkhand from Prospect, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

I have grown this plant as a repeat volunteer in a raised bed for some three years. It has grown well with little to no care on my part. It is a fun worth while curiosity to the herb bed.


On May 29, 2010, VGMKY from Louisville, KY wrote:

I grew the Tooth Ache plant last season in a pot at home and at the Oldham County History Center and Blackacre Nature Preserve, a 1700's homestead. It was grown in the ground at the other two sites.
You don't have to wait for it to reach a particular stage of development before it can be harvested. You can pick leaves at any time, although the flowers are the strongest part of the plant. It is non-toxic. This plant is a perennial in zones 10-11 It is killed by frost, so in other areas, treat as an annual, which you must reseed every year. It gets 1-1.5 feet high.


On Mar 20, 2006, WUVIE from Hulbert, OK (Zone 7a) wrote:

Very easy to grow.

Scattered about on a heated germination mat will bring 100% germination.

This is such a fun plant for the kids. As if the eyeballs were not entertaining enough, the fact that chewing on the leaves to numb your mouth is even more hilarious.


On Jan 1, 2005, Lem79 from Gold Coast,
Australia wrote:

I have one of these in a pot in my garden, lovely little thing it is. It's a great novelty when people come to visit aswell .. "Here, chew on one of these leaves" .. :) (10 seconds of chewing, "ooh, that tingles" .. "hey, that made my mouth numb!")

My own account of the local anaesthesia is.. 5-10 seconds of chewing, then a tingling in the area of the mouth in contact with the leaves, sort of tastes like lemon, then a numbness follows. The anaesthesia (not complete, though I have never tried more than one small leaf at once) lasts approximately five minutes.

Excellent fun, highly recommended!


Update: .. Try one of the flowers, about five times as potent as the leaves (at least), awesome :)


On Sep 29, 2004, tcfromky from Mercer, PA (Zone 5a) wrote:

Historical medicinal herb with unique acorn-shaped orange-yellow flowers. An unusual container or flowerbed plant. It has striking cone-like flowers with no flower petals, but instead, exhibits golden 'buds' with a rust-red center! Quite an eye-catcher. :)


On Aug 18, 2004, mocloa from Hendersonville, TN wrote:

Had never heard of this plant before seeing it on the plantdatabase. I was amazed, but never really thought much about it. At Opryland Hotel in Nashville, there is a section that is landscaped with "eyeball plant". When I saw it, I thought it rather odd and that it did indeed look like it could be an eyeball, Checked back with the site and sure enough that was it.


On Jun 29, 2004, CaptMicha from Brookeville, MD (Zone 7a) wrote:

Leaves are pretty potent and will cause tingling or numbing of the gums when chewed. It depends from person to person and age of plant. I think leaves are strongest near the time the plant flowers.

It enjoys full sun and hot temps and doesn't seem to have any insect problems. Plants will go limp if the soil completely dries out so if you keep it in a pot, you have to water it in dry summer heat.

It flowers grown from seed in a short time if the plant is happy. Dividing plants will increase blooms and produce more lush full plants. Foliage is glossy and attractive.


On May 18, 2002, ROYREID wrote:

Toothache Plant will bloom year-round in northeast Florida (U.S.) if protected from freezes.

It likes a slightly acid soil, organic fertilizer works well.

Can propagate from feathery seeds - cover with 1/8 to 1/4 inch of soil,and keep moist. Sow thinly to make it easier to separate plants. Grows best in a spot that receives morning sun and afternoon shade.


On Aug 13, 2001, mystic from Ewing, KY (Zone 6a) wrote:

Spilanthes oleracea is very beautiful, and can be grown as an annual in most climates. It has striking cone-like flowers, much smaller than Echinacea. There are no flower petals, but golden buds with a rust-red center (which look like an eyeball.)

This plant is called Toothache Plant because you can chew on the fresh or dried flower, or take the extract to help deaden pain from a tooth until you can visit the dentist. It is not only topically anesthetic for gums and teeth, but it is also bacteriostatic, helping to fight tooth decay.