Plants evergreen shrubs or trees, 2-7 m tall; young stems 4-sided, sometimes forming rigid spins. Leaves shortly petiolate; blades elliptic, obovate to oblanceolate, 1.2-6.7 cm long, 0.5-2.7 cm wide, bases cuneate, tips acute. Inflorescences panicles 5-25 cm long; bracts minute, caducous. Flowers fragrant, pedicellate, with hypanthia; pedicels 2-4 mm long; hypanthia plus sepals 2-5 mm long, sepals ovate triangular; petals ovate, 1.5-2.5 mm long, yellowish white, bases cordate; styles about 3 mm long. Fruits exserted from the hypanths, 4-6 mm long. 4.5-8 mm wide, pale; seeds 2-2.6 mm long.
Lawsonia inermis grows in alluvial soils along rivers or near waterhowls at 30-1500 m. It is known from regions N1, C1-2, and S1-3 of the Flora of Somalia. Djibouti, Ethiopia and elsewhere in the Old World Tropics. It has also been introduced to the New World. It is the only species in the genus Lawsonia.
Lawsonia inermis is the source of henna, a dye frequently used to dye skin, hair, and fingernails, as well as fabrics such as silk, wool, and leather. Wikipedia reports that it is also considered to have medcinal properties.