Monday, August 25, 2008

Andrographis paniculata 穿心莲

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

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