Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant)

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-9-19, #627-13.

Beefsteak Plant

Perilla frutescens

(Perilla frutescens var. frutescens)

per-IL-uh  froo-TESS-enz

Synonyms of Perilla frutescens (4) (Updated on 1-2-23 from Plants of the World Online): Ocimum frutescens L. (1753), Perilla frutescens var. typica Makino (1926) (not validly publ.), Perilla ocymoides L. (1764(nom. superfl.), Perilla urticifolia Salisb. (1796)(nom. superfl.)
Synonyms of Perilla frutescens var. frutescens (16) (Updated on 1-2-23 from POWO): Acinos jegoma Siebold (1830)(nom. nud.), Lumnitzera salvioides (B.Heyne ex Roth) Spreng. (1825), Melissa maxima Ard. (1764), Mentha perilloides Lam. (1797), Ocimum salvioides B.Heyne ex Roth (1821), Perilla albiflora Odash. (1935), Perilla avium Dunn (1913), Perilla frutescens var. auriculatodentata C.Y.Wu & S.J.Hsuan ex H.W.Li (1974), Perilla frutescens var. japonica (Hassk.) (1948), Perilla frutescens var. laviniata W.Mill. & L.H.Bailey (1916), Perilla frutescens var. purpurascens (Hayata) H.W.Li (1991), Perilla ocymoides f. discolor Makino (1912), Perilla ocymoides var. japonica Hassk. (1856), Perilla ocymoides var. purpurascens Hayata (1919), Perilla shimadae Kudô (1931), Plectranthus salvioides (B.Heyne ex Roth) Benth. (1832)

Perilla frutescens (L.) Britton is the accepted scientific name for the Beefsteak Plant. It was named and described as such by Nathaniel Lord Britton in Memoirs of the Torrey Botanical Club in 1894. It was first named Ocimum frutescens by Carl von Linnaeus in the second volume of the first edition of Species Plantarum in 1753.

Accepted infraspecific names (3): Perilla frutescens var. crispa (Thunb.) H.Deane, Perilla frutescens var. frutescens (autonym), Perilla frutescens var. hirtella (Nakai) Makino. When an infraspecific taxon is named, an autonym (“type-specimen”) is automatically generated whose description is closest to the (original) species. All have their own list of synonyms.

The genus, Perilla L., was named and described as such by Carl von Linnaeus in the sixth edition of Species Plantarum in 1764.

As of 1-2-23 when this page was last updated, Plants of the World Online lists 1 species in the Perilla genus. It is a member of the plant family Lamiaceae with a total of 232 genera. Those numbers could change as updates are made on POWO.

Distribution map of Perilla frutescens from Plants of the World Online. Facilitated by the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Published on the Internet; Retrieved on March 26, 2020.

The above distribution map for Perilla frutescens is from Plants of the World Online. Areas in green are where the species is native and purple is where it has been introduced. The map on the USDA Plants Database for the United States and Canada also includes the state of Washington.

The map on iNaturalist shows where members have made observations. Anyone can join and it is a great website to confirm and share your observations. The maps on iNaturalist are continually updated as members post new observations.


Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-4-19, #623-18.

I found a small colony of Perilla frutescens behind the pond at the back of the farm in September 2019. Until 2019, there were always cows in the pastures so many wildflowers I found in 2019 had apparently been eaten before. Even though Perilla frutescens is toxic to cattle, you just never know what they are going to eat. You can’t find a colony of Perilla frutescens just appearing all of the sudden even though I hadn’t noticed them before. I was fairly busy over the summer and the pastures had grown up in hay so it was September before I started making wildflower observations here.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) bud on 9-4-19, #623-19.

Perilla frutescens, commonly known as the Beefsteak Plant, is a summer annual that grows 1-3 feet in height. Currently, it is the only species in the genus as others have been moved to other genera over the years. Plants of the World Online lists three varieties (infraspecific names) of the species which are popular mainly in Asian countries. Perilla frutescens var. crispa, known as Shiso, has purplish-colored leaves. Perilla frutescens var. hirtella is known as Lemon Perilla.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-4-19, #623-20.

The stems of this species are a greenish-purple color and have downward-facing hairs (retrorse pubescent). The stems are 4-angled and have a median grove on each side. Plants normally produce many branches which terminate with flowers.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-4-19, #623-21.

Leaves grow in an opposite formation on the stems and are up to 5″ long x 3″ wide and are heavily serrated. The upper surfaces of the leaves are generally green but may have a purplish tint. The leaves are kind of heart-shaped (ovate-cordate) and taper to a sharp point. The leaves have prominent midribs and many veins giving them a wrinkly appearance. The leaves have a small stem (petiole) that connects them to the main stem of the plant.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-4-19, #623-22.

The undersurface of the leaves on the plants at the back of the farm appears whitish from the fine hairs. Some information suggests the lower surface of the leaves are purplish-green or entirely purple. The above leaf is mostly “whitish” with a few purple streaks. All the leaves I checked appeared similar.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-4-19, #623-23.

The above photo shows the hairy stems and you can see the hairs point downward (retrorse). The photo also shows side branches with smaller flower stems growing above them. I am sure there is a botanical term for that. 🙂 You can also see the groove in the main stem.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-9-19, #627-13.

While I was helping a friend drive cattle on his mother’s farm a few miles away, there was a HUGE colony of Perilla frutescens along the woods at the top of a hill. To say HUGE is actually an understatement. They were LOADED with flowers while the plants on my farm had just begun to bud.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-9-19, #627-14.

As you can see, the numerous flowering stems terminate with a long inflorescence. I didn’t have time to check leaves and plants over because the cows were heading in my direction.

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-9-19, #627-15.

There are several links at the bottom of the page that describe the flowers in botanical terminology…

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-9-19, #627-16.

Missouri Plants describes their inflorescence as axillary and terminal indeterminate verticillasters to +15cm long. Axis retrorse pubescent (densely), the hairs purple. Hmmm… I looked up “verticillasters” and the answer was “no results found”… You can check out Missouri Plants for their definition better than I can explain it…

Perilla frutescens (Beefsteak Plant) on 9-9-19, #627-17.

The flowers are usually produced two per node and are about 1/8″ long. Again, you can check out the links below for very descriptive information about the flowers.

Once you find this plant and have it correctly identified you will no doubt never forget it. My friend has a lot of these plants on his farm growing in his yard. This is a neat plant but one you may find tends to get a little invasive.

Check out Alternative Nature Online Herbal for A LOT of information about the Perilla frutescens.

I have enjoyed photographing and learning about the many wildflowers growing on the family farm and in other areas. The farm is in Windsor, Missouri in Pettis County (Henry County is across the street, and Benton and Johnson aren’t far away). I have grown over 500 different plants and identified over 250 species of wildflowers (most have pages listed on the right side of the blog). I am not an expert, botanist, or horticulturalist. I just like growing, photographing and writing about my experience. I rely on several websites for ID and a horticulturalist I contact if I cannot figure them out. Wildflowers can be somewhat variable from location to location, so sometimes it gets a bit confusing. If you see I have made an error, please let me know so I can correct what I have written.

I hope you found this page useful and be sure to check the links below for more information. They were written by experts and provide much more information. Some sites may not be up-to-date but they are always a work in progress. If you can, I would appreciate it if you would click on the “Like” below and leave a comment. It helps us bloggers stay motivated. You can also send an email to me at I would enjoy hearing from you especially if you notice something is a bit whacky.



NOTE: The data (figures, maps, accepted names, etc.) may not match on these websites. It depends on when and how they make updates and when their sources make updates. Some websites have hundreds and even many thousands of species to keep up with. Accepted scientific names change periodically and it can be hard to keep with as well. Some of the links may use a name that is a synonym on other sites. In my opinion, Plants of the World Online by Kew is the most reliable and up-to-date plant database and they make updates on a regular basis. I make updates “at least” once a year and when I write new pages or add new photos but I do get behind. We are all a work in progress. 🙂


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