Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Commonly known as stonebreaker because of its strong roots, Phyllanthus Niruri is an herb that grows in tropical areas like the rain forests of the Amazon, Bahamas, China and Southern India. It can reach 30-60 centimeters in height and when in bloom displays an array of yellow flowers. It grows freely like a weed spreading abundantly. All parts of the plant exhibit medicinal properties. It is used medically as a diuretic and an astringent.In drier climates like Brazil, India, Florida, and Texas, Phyllanthus amarus and Phyllanthus sellowianus grows. They are similar in appearance and medical application to Phyllanthus Niruri.
Phyllanthus niruri has a long history in herbal medicine systems world wide. The whole plant and its aerial parts are used for many remedies, mostly biliary and urinary. Some examples are kidney and gallbladder stones, hepatitis, colds, flu, tuberculosis, and other viral infections. It has also been proven effective in liver diseases like jaundice and liver cancer. It is sometimes used for bacterial infections such as cystitis, prostatitis, venereal diseases, and urinary tract infections. It can also assist in reducing anemia symptoms, diabetes and hypertension. It is well known for its diuretic, analgesic, stomachic, antispasmodic, febrifugal, and cell protective properties. Phyllanthus may help decrease the amount of hepatitis B virus found in the blood stream. Phyllanthus urinaria is more effective medicinally than the variety Phyllanthus amarus.
Herbs , annual or short-lived perennial, erect or decumbent, freely branched, 10-50 cm, glabrous, without black, glandular dots. Leaves alternate; petiole ca. 1/2 length of blade, glabrous. Leaf blade palmately 5-7-veined, broadly ovate to deltate, 0.6-4 × 0.5-3 cm, base truncate, rounded, or cordate, apex acute to slightly acuminate; surfaces glabrous. Spikes axillary, terminal, and opposite leaves, solitary, rarely 2-more, loosely flowered, 2-6 cm, mature fruiting spikes 1-2 mm diam. Fruits sessile, very broadly ovoid to globose, 0.5-0.7 × 0.4-0.5 mm, longitudinally ribbed with ladderlike reticulations; beak minute, conic, ca. 0.1 mm.
Flowering all year. In shaded woods and around nurseries and greenhouses, along coastal plain; 0-20 m; Fla., Ga., La.; Mexico; West Indies; Central America; n South America.
Peperomia pellucida has shown antibacterial activity against Staphylococcus aureus , Bacillus subtilis , Pseudomonas aeruginosa , and Escherichia coli ; it could have potential as a broad spectrum antibiotic
Monday, August 25, 2008
Ti plants or cordylines, are extremely popular worldwide for their intense leaf colors and leaf shapes producing interest and contrasts even in deep shade. Native to Eastern Asia to Polynesia, ti hybrids have names in English, French, Japanese and Hawaiian
Pictured above is 'Pink Sister' known in many places as the 'Hawaiian Ti' plant
Natives use plants for fiber, cloth and livestock food. The roots are said to be edible
By the way, Ti is pronounced like 'tea' in some areas, but in Florida the name rhymes with 'hi.' Correct is the 'tea' version
Mistakenly said to be related to dracaena, cordylines are tropicals and seen happy outdoors only in South Florida. Even our zone 10 winter temperatures cause leaves to "rag" with the edges turning brown on most. Spring pruning of all poor leaves is standard maintenance
This plant is tolerant of most soil conditions, but does not work well near salt spray conditions.
Water moderately and feed normally. Provide good drainage.
Stems can be cut almost any time and cuttings can be inserted into the ground to start a new plant. The mother plant will branch with new stems and new leaves if you do. This type of pruning is necessary over time as stems can grow too tall (up to 8-10 feet) for the landscape affect originally intended
With little care. Ti plants can be wonderful houseplants as well. Stem cuttings can also be inserted into a vase with 2-3 inches of water and your ti will grow roots very easily
Andrographis paniculata, (AP), also known commonly as "King of Bitters," is a member of the plant family Acanthaceae, and has been used for centuries in Asia to treat GI tract and upper respiratory infections, fever, herpes, sore throat, and a variety of other chronic and infectious diseases. It is native to India and Sri Lanka, and widely cultivated in southern Asia.
It is a perennial herb that can grow from 30-100 cm tall. The stem is distinctly 4-angular and smooth apart from a few hairs at the nodes.
The leaves are opposite, simple and narrowly egg-shaped to lance-shaped that size 5-10 cm x 1.2-2.5 cm. The apex is acuminate while the margin is entire and hairless but often gland-dotted. The petiole is short, up to 6 mm long and it is connected to the opposite one by transverse ridges.
Flowers are in lax, axillary and terminal racemes or panicles combined into a pyramidal inflorescence, with 2 small bracteoles at base of the 1-7 mm long pedicel. The flowers are bisexual and zygomorphic. The sepal has 5 segments, joined at the base, with glandular and aglandular hairs. The petal is bilabiate, white or rose with purple markings on the upper lip. The petal tube is between 5-6 mm long, slightly enlarged below the limb. The lower lip is 4-6 mm long, oblong and it is 2-toothed at the apex while the upper lip is deeply 3-lobed, also 4-6 mm in length. It has 2 stamens that are inserted at the petal tube apex and exserted. The filaments are hairy with the anthers are inserted at the equal level. At the base they are united and bearded, deep purple to black in colour. The ovary is superior. It is 2-locular with 3-7 ovules in each cell, the style is curved upwards and the stigma is entire.
The fruit is erect, narrowly ellipsoidal and has glandular hairy capsule with the size of 14-20 mm x 3-3.5 mm. This is a species that is many-seeded Seeds are held up on well-developed hooks (retinaculae), almost rectangular and with 2 deep furrows.
How to grow
Sow seed in spring when the soil is warm (65 F). Needs moist, well drained soil and high humidity and can take sun or partial shade. Plant 12-18" apart.
Days To Maturity: 100 days
Sunday, August 24, 2008
金銀花 Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica Thunb)
is a species of honeysuckle native to eastern Asia including Japan, Korea, northern and eastern China, and Taiwan, which is a major invasive species in North America. It is a twining vine able to climb up to 10 m high or more in trees, with opposite, simple oval leaves 3–8 cm long and 2–3 cm broad. The flowers are double-tongued, opening white and fading to yellow, and sweetly scented. The fruit is a globose dark blue berry 5–8 mm diameter containing numerous seeds.
This species is sold by American nurseries, often as the cultivar 'Hall's Prolific' (Lonicera Japonica var. Halliana). It is an effective groundcover, and has pleasant, strong-smelling flowers. It can be cultivated by seed, cuttings, or layering. In addition, it will spread itself via shoots if given enough space to grow.
Japanese Honeysuckle has become naturalized in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand and much of the United States, including Hawaii, as well as a number of Pacific and Caribbean islands.
Japanese Honeysuckle is classified as a noxious weed in Illinois and Virginia. It can be controlled by cutting or burning the plant to root level and repeating at two-week intervals until nutrient reserves in the roots are depleted. It can also be controlled through annual applications of glyphosate, or through grubbing if high labor and soil destruction are not of concern. Cutting the Honeysuckle to within 5–10 cm of the ground and then applying glyphosate has proved to be doubly effective, provided that the mixture is rather concentrated (20–25%) and is applied immediately after making the cut.
The Japanese Honeysuckle flower is of high medicinal value in traditional Chinese medicine, where it is called rěn dōng téng (忍冬藤; literally "Winter enduring vine") or jīn yín huā (金銀花; literally "gold silver flower"). It has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties, and is used (often in combination with Forsythia suspensa) to dispel heat and remove toxins, including carbuncles, fevers, influenza and ulcers. It is, however, of cold and yin nature, and should not be taken by anyone with a weak and "cold" digestive system. In Korean, it is called geumeunhwa. The dried leaves are also used in traditional Chinese medicine.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
Lantana (or White Sage) is a woody, shrubby perennial plant that does well in containers, as a bedding plant, or on a slope for erosion control. Many are hairy, prickly plants that have a kind of spicy-pungent odor when bruised (some liken this smell to cat pee, unfortunately).
Lantana offers bright color that is attractive to bees and butterflies, making it a good addition to a Habitat-type of situation. The flowers are borne in clusters and are bi-colored, somewhat resembling the common Verbena (they are in the same family and are close relatives). Lantana is not related to the Sage family, despite it's nickname. Flower colors include white, blue, purple, orange, yellow, and lilac.
Lantana does well in sun or part shade, and prefers a rich, loose, well drained soil, although it will still perform well in less than perfect conditions. It does appreciate some shelter from the elements, and does well alongside a fence or against the house. It has naturalized in certain warmer areas, such as Florida and Texas, and is drought resistant once established. It will not tolerate severe winters, so grow it as an annual if you are below Zone 7 or so. It is a low-maintenance plant that can grow up to 8 feet if it is happy in it's position, but pruning works well if you prefer a smaller shrub. It mingles well in mixed borders and also makes an attractive specimen plant (but you will have to pinch it to make it more full). Deadheading spent flowers is also a good idea with this plant to encourage more bloom.
Lantana can be propagated by cuttings, root suckers, or seed. Cuttings take a long time to bloom again, but once they start blooming they will keep it up, and they are a very good way to make new plants. The seeds are borne at the tips of the stems and are berry-like, starting out as green, and later turning purplish-black. Once the seed has ripened (turned black), it can be planted immediately with no further preparation, but if you are sending seed to a friend or want to store it, let it dry in an airy place on paper towels for a few days before storing. Be careful about kids and pets eating Lantana seed, as it can be pretty toxic when overdosed (there has been one known child fatality). Toxicity is in the green seed only - once the seeds turn black, they are no longer a threat. See the picture above for a fairly clear illustration of the seeds in their various stages. The rest of the plant is used almost world-wide for it's medicinal properties, and crushed leaves make a good furniture polish.
Medicinal Properties: Lantana is one of those plants with only scattered and often conflicting reports on it's use in herbal medicine, so approach this one with caution. As stated above, the green berries are toxic, and there has been one human fatality attributed to them. Animals will also be affected by eating these plants, though in the documentation I have studied, it doesn't say whether it was the leaves or the berries that caused the toxicity (though I suspect it was the berries). Most domestic animals will not eat this plant, probably due to a combination of the taste and smell, so they are not a huge problem in the home landscape, but Lantana has been known to cause fatalities in farm animals, such as cows and goats.
Although working around Lantana plants can cause a dermatitis type of rash (probably due to their spiny nature), the leaf actually seems to work as a soothing agent in cases of insect stings, skin eruptions, cuts, scrapes, ulcerations, the itch of measles and chicken pox, and finally, parasites, such as scabies. See How to Make Herbal Oils & Ointments for specifics on how to use this plant for these problems. Another method of itch relief is to place a handful of fresh leaves in a mesh bag or something similar, and place it under the bath tap water.
Lantana is mentioned in folklore as being of help in snakebite cases, and it definitely wouldn't hurt to use it when available in cases of snakebite while camping, etc. In such an emergency, crush the leaves and apply directly to the affected area. Also, if you find yourself without a toothbrush, Lantana stems make a decent substitute because of their spiny nature.
Lantana leaves can be used in a Tea for relief of symptoms of rheumatism (a bath might help too - see above), indigestion, joint pain, flu, coughs, colds, sore throat, fever, and possibly tapeworms - and can be boiled and eaten for relief from headaches, body pain, and toothaches. The leaves also seem to work as an inhalant for respiratory problems. To use as an inhalant, pound the leaves, and boil in water with a tight fitting lid for about 5 minutes. Using a funnel, pour the hot liquid into a glass container with a narrow mouth, and inhale continuously until the symptoms retreat. This strategy can also be tried for headaches and colds.
It appears that Lantana has properties that are promising in some of the more serious diseases, such as diabetes and cancer, and that it works almost as well as some of it's chemically-based peers in suppressing the immune system for organ transplantations. These studies are in their infancy, but definitely warrant further research.
Lastly, Lantana leaves, dried and burned in a glass jar or other fireproof container, have been used for centuries as a natural mosquito repellent. Consider mixing them with beeswax that you can find at any crafts store for a homemade herbal mosquito repellant at your next outdoor party.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Cempedak is a species of tree and its fruit in the family Moraceae. It is native to southeast Asia, occurring in Malaysia, Myanmar, Brunei,Indonesia and the Philippines (Palawan). It is very rare to find outside SE Asia.
The taste of the fruit is similar to the related Jackfruit and Breadfruit with a hint of Durian. A sweet, mild, and juicy pulp surrounds the peanut-like seeds in a thick layer between the husk and an inedible core. The outer husk of the fruit is slightly sticky. Fruits in Borneo may be nearly round and are hung by the stem as they become fragile when ripe. The soft fruits are very sweet with some fiber and a fairly smooth skin. They are smaller, less acidic and less fibrous than the jakfruit. The strongly odored fruits smell like durians when ripe, however if the peel is removed this will remove most of the odor.
The evergreen, branching cempedak tree can grow up to 20 m with wild trees often taller and having many more seeds in their fruit. Their smooth bark becomes thick and rough as they age. The leaves are dull to medium green and have long brown wiry hair on the surface. The fruits are seasonal and either barrel-shaped or pear-shaped. When cut, the fruit secretes sticky latex which can only be cleaned off with vegetable oil rather than with water. The outer rind consists of fleshy spines, although the fruit can still easily be opened with ones hands. In each fruit are about 100 to 500 seeds, and it is the fragrant, yellow edible flesh surrounding each seed, which the fruit is sought for.
How to grow
They are tropical in their growing requirements needing a warm, moist position and deep fertile soil in the full sun. Seedling trees start bearing after 3-6 years, they flower in Spring and the fruit mature 3-6 months later.
Usage and Potential
Cempedak's pulpy flesh and its hard seed are considered edible. The flesh is eaten fresh or cooked such as fried cempedak: a tasty Malay snack, or the pulp creamed to be used in making jams and cakes. The flesh is salted to make a pickle called jerami. The hard seeds are boiled or roasted and eaten, a popular practice amongst the Malayan jungle tribes. Besides the flesh and seed, the young leaves and whole young fruits are cooked as vegetables and made into pickles.
The tree gives timber which is generally durable and is used for building houses and boats. Young timber can be ground and used as a yellow dye although a darker brown can be derived from older trees. In Indo-China, this yellow dye was used to dye the robes of Buddhist priests. The bark can also be used for making ropes while the latex is used for making lime.
The pulasan tree is a handsome ornamental; attains 33 to 50 ft (10-15 m); has a short trunk to 12 to 16 in (30-40 cm) thick; and the branchlets are brown-hairy when young. The alternate leaves, pinnate or odd-pinnate, and 6 3/4 to 18 in (17-45 cm) long, have 2 to 5 pairs of opposite or nearly opposite leaflets, oblong-or elliptic-lanceolate, 2 1/2 to 7 in (6.25-17.5 cm) long and up to 2 in (5 cm) wide; slightly wavy, dark-green and barely glossy on the upper surface; pale, somewhat bluish, with a few short, silky hairs on the underside. Very small, greenish, petalless flowers with 4-5 hairy sepals, are borne singly or in clusters on the branches of the erect, axillary or terminal, panicles clothed with fine yellowish or brownish hairs. The fruit is ovoid, 2 or 3 in (5-7.5 cm) long, dark- or light-red, or yellow, its thick, leathery rind closely set with conical, blunt-tipped tubercles or thick, fleshy, straight spines, to 3/8 in (1 cm) long. There may be 1 or 2 small, undeveloped fruits nestled close to the stem. Within is the glistening, white or yellowish-white flesh (aril) to 3/8 in (1 cm) thick, more or less clinging to the thin, grayish-brown seedcoat (testa) which separates from the seed. The flavor is generally much sweeter than that of the rambutan. The seed is ovoid, oblong or ellipsoid, light-brown, somewhat flattened on one side, 3/4 to 1 1/3 in (2-3.5 cm) long.
The pulasan is native to Western Malaysia. Wild trees are infrequent in lowland forests around Perak, Malaya but abundant in the Philippines at low elevations from Luzon to Mindanao. The tree has long been cultivated in Malaya and Thailand; is rarely domesticated in the Philippines. Ochse reported that there were extensive plantings in Java only around Bogor and the villages along the railway between Boger and Djakarta.
The tree was planted at the Trujillo Plant Propagation Station in Puerto Rico in 1926 and young trees from Java were sent to the Lancetilla Experimental Garden, Tela, Honduras, in 1927. The latter were said in 1945 to be doing well at Tela and fruiting moderately. The pulasan is little-known elsewhere in the New World except in Costa Rica where it is occasionally grown and the fruits sometimes appear on the market.
Ochse refers to 2 forms of pulasan in Java: in one group, distinguished as "Seebabat' or 'Kapoolasan seebabat', the fruit is mostly dark-red, the tubercles are crowded together, the flesh is very sweet and juicy and separates easily from the seed. In the other group, the fruit is light-red and smaller, the tubercles are not so closely set, and the flesh adheres firmly to the seed.
Wester mentions a fine variety growing in Jolo. The plants introduced into Honduras were 2 superior varieties called 'Asmerah Tjoplok' and 'Kapoelasan mera tjoplok'. There are some trees in Malaya and in Thailand that bear seedless fruits and these are being vegetatively propagated.
The pulasan is ultra-tropical and thrives only in very humid regions between 360 and 1,150 ft (110-350 in) of altitude. In Malaya, it is said that the tree bears best after a long, dry season.
There is little information on the soil requirements of the pulasan but Ochse says it must be constantly moist. He was of the opinion that the richer soil around Bogor contributed to the superior quality of the fruits grown in that area.
Planting of seeds is not favored because the seedlings may be male or female. As with the rambutan, air-layers are very short-lived. Budding is successful if it is done in the rainy season on rootstocks already set out in the field so that they will not be subject to transplanting which causes many fatalities, particularly during dry weather.
The trees require less space than rambutan trees and can be 26 to 33 ft (8 to 10 m) apart each way. As a rule, they receive little or no fertilizer or other cultural attention.
The flesh of ripe fruits is eaten raw or made into jam. Boiled or roasted seeds are used to prepare a cocoa-like beverage.