Saturday, September 25, 2010

Kali River Valley

The Kali River valley in the Western Ghats is a biodiversity hotspot. Many unknown and hitherto unidentified species of plants are found here. There are quite a number of gingers. The picture above is a Glabba ginger flower, with its typical tail. The air itself smells fresh and invigorating in the jungle. The water of the numerous streams are pristine pure. This invaluable rainforest houses 31 different types of birds. The Malabar pied Hornbill is endemic to this region. This forest is diminishing due to human activity.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Clock Vines

Clock Vines are native to India. The large blue flowers of the Bengal Clock Vine Thunbergia grandiflora are a beautiful sight . The vine gets its name from the fact that it always curls itself clockwise around a support. The Bengal Clock Vine becomes very heavy after some years. It can be pruned to the desired size. Once established, it does not need any care except occasional watering.
The Black- Eyed -Susan Thunbergia alata is a moderately sized vine. the bright yellow flowers with their black centres make the plant very attractive. It is self seeding , and sometimes becomes invasive.

The Mysore Clock Vine, Thunbergia mysorensis flowers profusely all through the year. Its flowers hang like chandeliers from the support, making it one of the most attractive flowering creepers. It also needs a strong support as it becomes quite heavy over the years.
Thunbergia erecta is a shrub with blue flowers , while Thunbergia fragrans is a vine with white flowers.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Open Sesame

Sesame Sesamum indicum is a small plant with great properties. Although it has been domesticated since thousands of years, it also grows in the wild. The flowers are white or pink, tubular, and attract bees. Its name in Sanskrit is Tila. The word 'Tailam', meaning 'oil' comes from this word. Sesame is grown extensively in south India and its oil is used for cooking, for massage, and for lighting the oil lamp in the sanctum sanctorum of temples.

Many types of sweets are made in India using sesame seeds and jaggery. Ayurveda practitioners prescribe eating sesame seeds and dry copra for relief in hemorrhoids.
There are two main types of sesame seeds, one black and one white. The black seame is appreciated for its flavour. After removing the oil, the husk is sold as 'oil cakes'. This is a good additive to the compost, and makes the plants grow healthy.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Perfume for the Hippies

Patchouli Pogostemon cablin is a herb of the mint family, native to India. Its name comes from the Tamil- Patcha meaning green and elle meaning leaf. In India, its oil has been used for thousands of years as a perfume. The leaves and flowers have a spicy scent which some people cannot stand. It was made famous by the hippies in the 1960s and '70s. It is still used to make the essential oil which is a valuable base of many modern perumes.
The patchouli leaves have germicidal and insect repellant qualities. The dried leaves are kept between their silk sarees by Indian women, to repel moths. In ancient times, silk from China was wrapped in Patchouli leaves when it was delivered to Europe.
The plant is easy to grow and propagate, as it can tolerate shade.
Patchouli is used in Ayurveda medicine as it is anti fungal anti bacterial.