Saturday, October 31, 2009

Sacred Plants of the World

Many plants were considered sacred by the ancient civilizations. The Datura was a sacred plant of the Aztecs. It has always been used in shamanic rites, and as a hallucinogen. Recent research shows that the Maya considered the Silk Cotton tree, Ceiba pentandra a sacred tree representing the Universe.
The Hindus consider the Sweet Basil, Ocimum sanctum sacred. They have a festival in autumn in honour of the plant, which they consider to be the representative of Lakshmi, the goddess of wealth and beauty and the Universe.

For the Buddhists, the Bodhi Tree is most sacred because Buddha attained Enlightenment under the tree. The Bodhi Tree is thought to represent the Universe.
All these plants have special healing powers.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Red Ginger

The Red Ginger Alpinia purpurata is also called Ostrich Plume. The attractive bright red bracts contain small, insignificant , white flowers. The Red Ginger is the native of Malaysia and the national flower of Samoa. After the flowers have been pollinated, small plantlets appear at the end of the bract. The stem slowly bows and reaches the ground, where the baby plants take root.
The Red Ginger bracts are useful for flower arrangements as they stay fresh for a long time.
The name 'Ginger' comes from the Sanskrit name Shringa bera meaning horned root, which describes the ginger root. There is an ancient town named Shringeri, named after the ginger, in India. The ancient monastery in Shringeri was established more than two thousand years ago by Shankaracharya. The forests of the Western Ghats which surround the monastery, are full of different types of ginger.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Flamingo Plant

Jacobinia carnea has many names. In Australia it is called the Feathe-duster Plant , and in India it is called the Flamingo Plant. It is also known as Brazilian Plume Flower. Its curious shape and its preference for shade makes it a favourite of gardeners. Although the flowers are numerous, they do not produce seed , as they are sterile.
There is a yellow flowering vareity and a white one also in this. You can propagate it by tip cuttings taken during the rainy season.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Bromeliad Flowers

The Friendship Plant or Queen's Tears Billbergia nutans, a grass like plant, bursts into flowers in autumn and spring. The pink bracts are very striking- no less the dark blue and green flower. Since it is an epiphyte, it can be grown on a tree.

The Pyramid Billbergia, Billbergia pyramydalis has no such time restrictions. It flowers whenever it feels like, throughout the year. One has to protect the flowers from marauding snails.

The Matchstick Plant, Aechmea gamosepala is also flowering now. The small plants are easy to propagate, as they give forth lots of pups.I have lined a border with them. They don't seem to flower profusely when planted in the ground.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Oil from Plants

Humans have been extracting oil from plants since pre-historic times. More and more uses have been found for the vegetable oils.
Jatropha, the plant with the red flowers, yields an oil which is used as a substitute for deisel in some parts of the world. I visited an organic farm called Navadarshanam near Bangalore, where they use the Jatropha oil to run their flour mill. The waste is composted.
There are innumerable uses for the coconut oil, which has been known to humans for millenia. Coconut oil is used as a cooking medium, for the preparation of beauty aids, as an addition to food, for making soap, in industry...
The tree you see on the right hand corner is the sandalwood tree. It gives a very precious oil which is used in the perfume industry, and also for religious purposes by the Hindus and the Buddhists.