Saturday, August 28, 2010

Amrutaha Balli

The Amrutha Balli , Tinospora cordifolia is aptly named . Amrutha in Kannada means elixir which gives immortality and Balli means vine. This vine which grows all over India is an elixir which protects from innumerable diseases. Theplant is called Giloi in Hindi. It is used extensively by Indian, Thai and Malaysian healers. The leaves and stems of the vine are dried and powdered, and used to treat liver disorders and Diabetes. The leaves are also used as an anti malarial drug. The powdered dry leaves mixed with buttermilk is said to cure piles.
There are two other varieties of Tinospora, both of which are said to have high medicinal value.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Sign for the flower thieves

My heliconium flowers are often stolen by the village urchins on their way to school. So as a deterrent, I drew this sign with a picture of a cobra and hung it next to the heliconiums. The sign says "Cobra! Be careful!" in the local language, Kannada. I was very pleased to see the sign working , until....
a snake- catcher came and demanded money for "sending the cobra away"!
Thanks to the team of Everday Life Around the World for hosting the meme.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Indigo for Independence

The Indigo plant, INdigofera tinctoria is a native wild plant which grows throughout India.Although the dye obtained from it is blue, the flowers of Indigofera tinctoria are mauve or pink. Indigo has a long history as a dye. It was so valuable that it was called the Blue Gold.Newton named one of the colours of the spectrum after the colour of the dye.
Although many plants belong to the Indigofera family, it is the Indigofera tinctoria which was used historically to obtain the blue dye. The leaves of the Indigo plant are boiled and allowed to ferment to obtain the dye.

The Indigo Revolt of 1858 in Bengal was considered by many historians as the precursor to the struggle for independence in India . The British East India Company, forced the farmers of Bengal to grow indigo instead of food crops , which led to mass revolt by the farmers. The famousBengali play , Neel Darpan is based on this revolt. In 1897, Indigo was grown in 7000 square kilometers . Even though they produced 19,000 tons of the precious dye for their foreign masters, the conditions the farmers lived in were abysmal. Everything changed suddenly, when the commercially viable synthetic indigo dye was synthesised in 1860.
Indigo has been used since pre historic times to dye cloth. The Greeks and Romans valued it as a luxury dye brought from India. In Japan, the summer Kimono Yukata, is dyed blue using Indigo, as it represents nature and the blue ocean. In America, the blue jeans were dyed with indigo. In India, indigo has been used to dye silk and cotton.
The Indigo plant is the host plant for the larvae of many butterflies.
In Indian alternative medicine, Indigo plant is used for alleviating pain.
The plant is known for its soil improving properties.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Today's Flowers

The Indian Balsam Impatiens glandulifera is a great attractor of honey bees. It has many colours ranging from white to pink to purple.

The wild variety makes its appearance during the monsoon season. The wild balsams are usually magenta flowered. The double blossomed variety is also very popular. A vendor promised that the seeds he gave were double flower variety, but they turned out to be single.
The Balsam is called Karna Kundala in Kannada, because the flowers resemble ear ornaments.
The plants are very useful for biology teachers in school, as you can easily show children transportation of water and nutrients in a plant, using the translucent stems of balsam.You can see more flowers from different parts of the world in Today's Flowers at

Friday, August 13, 2010

The Gum Arabic Tree

The Gum Arabic tree Acacia nilotica, with its tiny leaves , is well suited for life in semi deserts. The trees of this acacia were in full bloom in Rajasthan last week. It is a native of India and Africa.
The fragrant small golden flowers of the Gum Arabic attract swarms of bees. The tree is full of thorns, and this makes it an ideal tree to plant at the edge of fields to deter marauding deer and Neelgai.
Farmers use the leaves of the tree as fodder. Camels, which are used to carry loads in Rajasthan like to eat the leaves. They don't seem to mind the thorns.
The bark of the tree is used to alleviate cough. All parts of the tree are used in Siddha medicine .

Friday, August 6, 2010

A Natural Shampoo

The Shikakai, Acacia concinna is a thorny shrub, whose fruits are used to make a natural shampoo in India. The brown fruit which is called Shikakai or Soapnut is dried and powdered . This powder is used to wash oiled hair. Hair glows with a sheen after using this shampoo.

Shikakai is mild, but it can remove oil as well as a detergent. People use it to clean oil lamps and oily vessels too.
This acacia is a host plant for the Common Laskar butterfly.