Sunday, November 4, 2012

Bread Flower

Vallaris heynei is sometimes called Bread Flower because its fragrance reminds some people of newly baked bread. Belonging to the Apocynaceae family, this flower is known as Bhadravalli in Sanskrit. The vine can be trained over pergolas and arches.A native plant of India and Southeast Asia, this flower is the state floral emblem of Malacca.The fragrant flowers are very popular in Thailand and Malaysia, where it is known as Kesidang.The flowers attract butterflies and small birds.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Golden Everlasting Flower

The Golden Everlasting flower Bracteantha bracteata belongs to the family Asteraceae. It is a native of Australia. Its petals feel dry to the touch. We were surprised to see these plants growing like weeds in the Nilgiris last month. They are flowering cheek by jowl with the native Kurinji, which will flower next only after 12 years. I hope these foreign invaders would not have completely displaced our beautiful Kurinji by then.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Milk Thistle- the Royal Emblem of Scotland

I saw the Milk Thistle Silybum marianum growing wild by the roadside in Ooty recently. It must have been introduced by the Scottish tea planters a couple of centuries ago.
The Milk Thistle is also known as St.Mary's Thistle. It is the floral emblem of Scotland. According to a Scottish legend, the Vikings planned to invade Scotland in the hoary past. To avoid any noise, they took off their boots and advanced towards the Scottish garrison, but they were stung severely by the thorns of the thistles. Their cries of agony alerted the Scots  who drove them away.
The Milk Thistle has many medicinal uses. It is used for the treatment of  liver cirrhosis,. It is also used to lower cholesterol levels,and in the treatment of diabetic nephropathy.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Kurinji, the Twelve year Wonder of the Western Ghats

 Some of the hills in the Nilagiri part of the Western Ghats are draped in a blue haze. The mass flowering of the Kurinji flowers Strobilanthes kunthiana is at its height on grassy hills near Ooty now.Whole hillsidesare covered in these perfumed wild flowers now. The Kurini flowers once in twelve years, and flowers profusely. Populations of the Kurinji in different sites may have different calendars, but the length of the flowering cycle is the same.
Strobilanthes belongs to the family of Acanthaceae. Plants that flower after long intervals are called Plietesials. According to one hypothesis for this kind of behaviour in plants is that  they exhibit 'Predator satiation'. It is a strategy developed by these monocarpic plants  so that the abundance of floral 'prey' will satiate the insect predators. You can read more about his hypothesis here.
The plants reckoned without the human predator, it seems. The Kurinji land is now Tea land, with hectares of tea plantations coming up in their habitat. To see these flowers yesterday, we had to walk through a tea plantation and clamber up a rocky outcrop. Our little guide Santosh is holding out a posy of Kurinji flowers for me in this picture.
Kurinji flowers are a symbol of yearning and love in ancient Tamil literature. The plant was first studied and described to the western world by the German botanist Christian Gottfried Daniel Nees von Esenbeck . The name' kunthiana' is from the river Kunthi which flows through the southern part of the Western Ghats.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Determined Wild Flower of a Rain Shadow Region

 Two days ago I saw these wild flowers on a vine which had crept up my Curry Leaf tree. The beautiful tiny white flowers resemble the flowers of the Tabernamontana. The creeper exudes 'milk' when a twig is plucked. The flowers have no scent.
This year, because of the failed monsoon and the ensuing water crunch, many parts of the garden failed to get any water. This creeper, which I think is a native , must have had no competition from exotic plants, and has quietly, but determinedly crept up my Curry Leaf tree.
All native plants have medicinal uses in Ayurveda, but I could not find anyone to identify the plant..
Can you identify it?

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Flowers of the Eastern Ghats- Cobra lily

 The Cobra lily, Arisaema is endemic to the Eastern Ghats- a low hill range parallel to the eastern coast line of India.

While Arisaema tortuosa is found in the rain forests of the Western Ghats, this Arisaema is found in the Kolli Hills of the Eastern Ghats.
The remarkable thing about these plants is that they are hermaphroditic. They start life as male plants, and when they are mature, they turn into female plants.
I would be grateful for a correct identification of this Arisaema.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Amla for health

The Indian gooseberry, Amla Emblica officinalis is one of the important ingredients of Chyavan prash, a health giving tonic of Ayurveda. The fruit is loaded with vitamin C. The fruit are somewhat sour to bitter, but their health giving properties make them a perpetual favourite in India. The fruit ripen in winter. Pickle, jam, and morabba are made from them. They are good for the skin, hair and eyes, besides being a powerful anti oxidant.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Green wild flowers

 I came across these wild flowers in the IIT campus in Mumbai. They are greenish in colour, papery to the touch and grow on a wild vine. There were abundant flowers on the vine.
I would like to know the name of this wild flower of the Western Ghats.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Western Ghats- a World Heritage Site

 The Western Ghats are a series of heavily wooded mountain ranges along the west coast of India. They are one of the 18 bio-diversity hot spots on earth. Besides being home to tigers, leopards, elephants, bison and different birds and insects, this region is also  home to thousands of plants some of which grow nowhere else,
 This giant Barleria flowers once in eight years.

Older than the Himalayas, the Western Ghats are the fountain of life for the Indian peninsula. They control the weather pattern, the rainfall in the subcontinent. Many of the life giving rivers of India begin their journey here. Recently, the Western Ghats were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which was welcomed by naturalists, environmentalists and nature lovers, but vehemently opposed by the mining lobby and other vested interests. I hope these beautiful cloud forests will thrive.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Pineapple Orchid

One of the most spectacular orchids that grow in the wild is the Pineapple orchid Dendrobium multiflorum. It is a native of Meghalaya, a state in the Northeast. The plant has pseudo bulbs. The flowers bloom in April-May, clinging to tall woodland trees. The flowers are golden yellow , with orange-yellow centres.These orchids need a cool and humid climate to flourish.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Guava- the Health giver.

 The guava flower looks  delicate and beautiful.
The guava fruit is rich in vitamin C and fibre, besides having many other health giving qualities. The seeds of the guava fruit can cause stomach problems.
Although the guava is a native of the Americas, it has naturalised itself in India, so that it is hard to believe that it is not a native plant. Its fruit is used to make jellies and jams and juices. Its leaves are used in folk medicine to get rid of head lice.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Wood Rose

The Wood Rose Argyreia nervosa is a native of India, although it is commonly called Hawaiian Baby Wood Rose. The plant is a cousin of the Morning glory, and its flowers resemble the morning glory flowers. It is only when they are fertilized, that they form the beautiful rose-like seed pods.
I found the vine growing wild on my walk recently. I was enchanted by the woody, rose shaped seed pods.
The flower itself is not as attractive as its cousin the ipomea.
The roots of this plant are used in Ayurvedic medicine.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Green Ice Crossandra

The rare aquamarine flowers of the Green Ice Crossandra Ecbolium ligustrium are called Neelambari in Kannada. It is also known as the Green Shrimp Plant. This wild flower is found in the slopes of the Western Ghats. I found this rare plant in the Campus of IIT Bombay, in Mumbai, which still boasts of some wild patches of forestland.
Tribal medicine men use theleaves of this plant to make a decoction for alleviating fever. The root is used in rheumatism.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Flame of the forest

Butea monosperma, which is also known as Flame of the forest,flowers in abundance in all forests throughout India in spring. It is called Palash in Sanskrit and Hindi, and Muttuga in Kannada. It is mentioned in the Ramayana, where Sita sees the flowering trees, and thinks some stretches of the forest were on fire. The leaves of this tree are made into leaf plates, which are said to impart health giving qualities to the food served on them.
Butea superba, a cousin of the Butea moosperma is used in Thai medicine .