Well-known by the scientific name Tournefortia argentea, tree heliotrope was renamed several times in quick succession–the currently accepted name seems to be Heliotropium foertherianum, a name published by Diane & Hilger in 2003 through a revision of the Boraginaceae.
Tree heliotrope (also known as velvet soldierbush or octopus bush) is native to coastal regions of the Indian Ocean: tropical Asia, Madagascar, and northern Australia. It can also be found as a native plant further east into the Pacific, on islands and atolls of Malesia, Micronesia and southeastern Polynesia. Growing in rocky or sandy soils, plants of Heliotropium foertherianum (PDF) are found only in a narrow ribbon of oceanside vegetation; it is therefore termed a “strand plant”. It is a modern introduction to Hawaiian Islands, where it is commonly called kiden.
The small white flowers are borne in many-branched, silky clusters of coiled spikes near the ends of branches (hence the common name, octopus bush). The small green fruits, which look like small pointed peas, turn brown when mature and divide into four nutlets.