plants

A plant from Chile kills and eats sheep...

Puya chilensis, a temperate climate evergreen perennial and close relative to the comparatively tame pineapple, catches, kills and feeds off of relatively large mammals, including sheep.

P. chilensis doesn’t consume and digest plants by way of conventional carnivorous plant methods, but nonetheless, it will snag and trap a sheep in its masses of thorns, holding the animal until it dies of starvation, and then it will proceed to feed off nutrients supplied by the decomposing carcass.

The young leaf shoots of P. chilensis can be eaten by people. Baskets and such are made from strong fibers obtained from the leaves and stems of the plant.

Here is a short recent article on Puya chilensis, apparently a 10ft specimen has just bloomed for the first time at RHS Garden Wisely, in England. Cara Smith, a Horticulturist at Wisley had this to say about the rare occurrence:  “I’m really pleased that we’ve finally coaxed our Puya chilensis into flower. We keep it well fed with liquid fertilizer as feeding it on its natural diet might prove a bit problematic. It’s growing in the arid section of our glasshouse with its deadly spines well out of reach of both children and sheep alike.”

So, needless to say, Puya chilensis is a great contender for privacy screening / security planting along boarders shared with pesky neighbors.

Here are some photo I have posted previously of a very close relative to Puya chilensis, Puya berteroniana, spectacular in its own regard for its massive aquamarine/blue and orange flower spikes.

Calochortus amabilis - Golden fairy lantern

Calochortus amabilis flowers.

Calochortus amabilis flowers.

Calopchortus amabilis, another California native flowering bulb. This is a stout branching plant with bright yellow flowers with a triangular outline.

The plant prefers higher levels of shade, and soil humus rich in organic matter, however it grows in the wild in a wide variety of conditions, including full sun, rocky hillsides, chaparral and Serpentine soils. .

In the wild the plant can be found along the North Coast Ranges from Solano and Marin Counties to Humboldt an Colusa County.

As with the bulbs of many Calochortus species, C. amabilis bulbs were traditionally eaten by Indigenous peoples in the region. Bulbs were baked or boiled and eaten in a similar way as sweet potatoes. Large swaths of land were carefully sustainably managed over generations to provide supply of these delicious and nutritious bulbs.

Young seed pods on Calochortus amabilis

Young seed pods on Calochortus amabilis

Calochortus amabilis flower close-up.

Calochortus amabilis flower close-up.

Citrus, spp., Unidentified giant lemon variety

This is a large Citrus species. The fruit were given to me years ago when I lived in Panama City's Old Quarter. Almost everyday I would visit a fruit vendor in Santa Ana to buy a small watermelon and a pineapple. He knew I worked with plants and collected fruit species so occasionally we would exchange fruit. I would bring miracle fruit, jaboticaba, jackfruit, curry tree fruit, and others, none of which he had ever seen. Him and his family would bring me highly regarded or lesser known fruit varieties from the interior of the country, giant Nance, Algarrobo (Hymenia coubaril), Mangos.

I never verified the species of this particular Citrus, it looks like some kind of Pomelo / Citron hybrid and has a relatively think skin compared to the size of the fruit. 

Any thoughts on the species?

Edible Condiment Leaves of Southeast Asia

The following is a list of species whose leaves are used as condiments in Southeast Asia. The list is not, by any means, complete, but includes some of the lesser known, more obscure species.

Acacia farnesiana, Cassie flower, Leguminaceae

Achronychia laurifolia, Ketiak, Rutaceae

Aegle marmelos, Bael fruit, Rutaceae

Allium odorum, Chinese chives, Liliaceae

Ancistrocladus extensus, Ox-tongue, Dipterocarpaceae

Antidesma ghaesembilla, Sekinchak, Euphorbiaceae

Begonia tuberosa, Tuberous begonia, Begoniaceae

Claoxylon polot, Rock blumea, Euphorbiaceae

Coleus tuberosus, African potato, Labiatae

Crypteronia paniculata, Sempoh, Lythraceae

Curcuma domestica, Turmeric, Zingiberaceae

Cymbopogon citratus, Lemon Grass, Graminae

Cyrtandra decurrens, Graminae

C. pendula, Rock sorrel, Graminae

Dendrobium salaccense, Cooking orchid, Orchidaceae

Derris heptaphylla, Seven finger, Leguminaceae

Elethariopsis sumatrana, Frangrant gingerwort, Zingiberaceae

Eugenia polyantha, White kelat, Myrtaceae

Evodia roxburghiana, Sour-relish wood, Rutaceae

Gymura procumbens, Akar, Compositae

Homalomena graffithii, Itch grass, Araceae

Hornstedtia, Tepus, Zingiberaceae

Horsfieldia sylvestris, Pendarahan, Myristicaceae

Kaempferia galanga, Chekur (Galangal), Zingiberaceae

Kaempferia rotunda, Kenchur, Zingiberaceae

Leucas lavandulifoia, Ketumbak, Labiatae

L. zeylanica, Ketumbak, Labaiatae

Limnophila aromatica, Swamp leaf, Scrophulariaceae

L. villosa

L. conferta

L. pulcherrima

L. rugosa

Lycium chinese, Kichi, Matrimony vine, Solanaceae

Lycopersicum esculentum, Tomato, Solanaceae

Medinilla crispata, Medinilla, Melastomataceae

M. hasseltii

M. radicans

Mentha longifolia, Longleaf mint, Labiatae

Murraya koenigii, Curry-leaf tree, Rutaceae

Nauclea esculenta, Pincushion, Rubiaceae

Ocimum canum, Hoary basil, Labiatae

Oenanthe javanica, Shelum, Umbelliferae

Ottelia alismoides, Pojnd lettuce, Hydrocharitaceae

Oxalis corniculata, Sorrel, Oxalidaceae

Pilea melastomoides, Sweet nettle, Urticaceae

Piper lolot, Pepper leaf, Piperaceae

P. caducibracteum

P. umbellatum

Pistacia lentiscus, Pistachio resin tree, Anacardiaceae

Pluchea indica, Indian sage, Comppositae

Polygonum hydropiper, Water polygonum, Polygonaceae

Staurogyne elongata, Cross flower, Acanthaceae

Trachyspermum involucratum, Wild celery, Umbelliferae

Rubiaceae, Psychotria poeppigiana, hot lips, labios de puta

BACKGROUND< ORIGIN AND DISTRIBUTION

Native to the forests of Panama, this photo was taken in Soberania national park on the Pacific Side. The species ranges widely in the tropical Americas, from from Chiapas, OaxacaTabasco and Veracruz in Mexico to the very north of Argentina. It does not occur on the Pacific side of the American cordillera however, and is thus absent from El Salvador and Chile. It is probably also absent from Uruguay and Paraguay.

PROPAGATION AND CULTIVATION

I have propagated this Psychotria poeppigiana from seeds and cuttings collected in the dry tropical forests on the Pacific Coast of Panama.

USES AND ETHNOBOTANY

This species has been used as a hunting fetish, as a magical talisman to  facilitate hunting. The leaves and flowers would be placed in a bundle and tied to the collar of dogs when hunting taipir. In Suriname the plant is crushed then boiled, the resulting liquid can be used as wash for headaches. This same preparation can be used as an external wash for sprains, rheumatism, muscular pains and contusions.

The Wayana indians of Suriname use bark raspings from the stem and rub it on a skin rash known as "poispoisi". The red, sap-filled inflorescence are used for an antalgic to treat earache, administered by dropping the sap into the ear canal. The inflorescence is used to remedy whooping cough.

This species of psychotria has also been used as a P. viridis analogue in ayahuasca, containing significant amounts of DMT.

psychotria-poeppigiana.jpg

Euterpe oleraceae, Acai

Meliaceae, Azadirachta indica, Neem

Well known in its native North-ease India and Burma Neem is a fast growing, medium size tree, mature trees reach heights of 20 m or so.

Neem is widely considered to be one of the most useful of all cultivated trees. The uses are diverse and extensive. Neem is very drought tolerant and is grow extensively in arid and semi arid regions of tropical Africa.

Roots grow deep and wide, the tree does not stand waterlogging, leaves will ceas to grow, turn yellow, and eventually the roots will rot.

 

The wood is of very high quality, red in color, similar to that of Mahogany. Also notable is that  it is resistant to rot, due to its fungicidal properties. The wood is also used to produce a carbon of superior quality. The tree grows rapidly and regenerates easily after heavy pruning.

Neem is widely acclaimed for its insecticidal and fungicidal properties and has been used as such for thousands of years. Neem oil is, perhaps, the most effective natural product to combat such plagues. The oil is also used in the fabrication of soaps, lubrication oils, toothpaste and other cosmetic applications. Pure neem oil is said to be 98% effective as a spermicide when applied topically. The tree is also an excellent pioneer reclamation species to plant in exhausted soils. It is extremely drought tolerant.

Despite the fact that Neem is toxic to fungus and insects, it can be used as a highly nutritious and productive livestock forage crop.

In East Africa Neem is used as firewood, charcoal, timber, furniture, poles, utensils (pestals and mortars), medicine (leaves, bark, roots, fruit), fodder (goats eat leaves and oil-seed cake), bee forage, shade, ornamental, soil improvement, windbreak, veterinary medicine, oil (seed), a powerful antifeedant (azadirachtin from seed and leaves), soap manufacture.

For in-depth information I would suggest starting with The Neem Foundation, which can be found on the internet. Here's a link to the Kenya Neem Foundation.

Myrciaria floribunda - Rumberry, Guavaberry

A close relative of Camu-camu. This is native to dry and moist coastal forests of tropical America. Bears a small, bright orange berry. The flesh is strongly fragrant. Makes an excellent jam or juice. At Christmas time in parts of the Lesser Antilles (W. Indies) a Guavaberry rum is made. This is a delicious, aromatic, rum-based liqueur that has apparently been brewed for centuries.

M. floribunda is a very slow growing species, rarely found cultivated in its region of origin, although wild trees are typically left in pastures that have been cleared of their vegetation.

I know of a single tree and have harvested fruit once. Bears heavily.

In my experience the small, hard seeds can take a while to germinate. After months of waiting for germination I kind of lost track of them. Eventually I got a few sprouts. A light scarification might prove beneficial in expediting the process. Next season i'll germinate a few dozen, as this is a very uncommon in interesting tree.

Moringaceae, Moringa oleifera, horshraddish tree, drumstick tree

Yielding protein, oil, and carbohydrates, and with a load of vitamins and minerals, Moringa is possibly the planet's most underdeveloped tree. A sort of food market on a stalk, it yields at least four different edibles: pods, leaves, seeds, roots. Beyond edibles, it provides products that make village life more self-sufficient in rural communities: lubricating oil, lamp oil, wood, paper, liquid fuel, skin treatments, the means to purify water, and more. The green pods, which look like giant green beans but taste something like asparagus, are notably nutritious. Foliage is an important food product as well. People in various countries around the world boil up the tiny leaflets and eat them like spinach. In general this supreme plant shows a capacity to help solve problems such as hunger, malnutrition, rural poverty, disease, deforestation, and visual blight. Although the experiences come almost exclusively from India, the genus Moringa is inherently African, so it has ancestral roots in sub-Saharan soils. Read more in this informative PDF

Moringaceae, Moringa oleifera

Moringaceae, Moringa oleifera