Thursday, July 5, 2012

Ruby Saltbush - Enchylaena tomentosa


Enchylaena tomentosa


This inconspicuous little succulent is a halophyte that can be found in any state of Australia, and has edible leaves and berries. The berries are small (~5mm) and though usually red can be yellow, although I believe that the yellow fruit are immature stages of the red fruit, as they occur on the same plant. The plant is quite variable, from prostrate to upright, with grey to green leaves. There are two varieties in South-east QLD, E. tomentosa var. tomentosa and E. tomentosa var. glabra, having either tomentose or glabrous stems and leaves respectively.

Genus species
Ruby Saltbush
CHENOPODIACEAE

Identification
Shrub up to 1.5m (rarely this tall), often procumbent.
Terete (cylindrical) leaves tomentose, giving greyish appearance.
Fruiting perianths red or yellow, depressed-globose, succulent
Habitat
Found throughout most of Australia, both coastally and inland, also a common plant of salt marshes.
Flowers  year round
Fruits  year round
Etymology  
Tomentose – covered with short dense matted hairs
Warning  
None
Edibility
Raw- fruit and leaves
Medicinal
Prevents scurvy




Red and yellow fruit on the same shrub
The leaves have been eaten by early white people in Australia to prevent and/or cure scurvy. There is no other medical information available on this plant. There are records of the fruit being eaten by the Alyawara people of central Australia.



Cylindrical cross section of succulent leaf


Leaf arrangement around stem


The fruit taste sweet and salty



The large seed inside each fruit

Exerpt from Stanley & Ross

 

References

O’Connell, J & Barnett, P. 1983.  Traditional and Modern Plant Use among the Alyawara of Central Australia. Economic Botany 37(1) : 80-109
Stanley, T & Ross, E. Flora of South-eastern Queensland V1. 1983. Department of Primary Industries (QLD)

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Banana- Musa species


Musa sp


The banana. What an amazing plant. It’s up there with coconuts and bamboo as being one of the plants with the most varied uses in the world. It provides nutritious food, natural packaging, plates, umberellas, medicine,mulch and so much more. What more could you ask from a plant?

Musa species
Banana, Pisang, Plantain, Saba
FAMILY

Identification
Herbaceous perennial often grown as an annual. This plant can grow up to 7m.
Leaves spirally arranged around pseudostem, pinnate venation.
Cultivation 
Widely cultivated throughout the world, this plant prefers warm climates, full sun and abundant moisture.
Flowers  My plants are fruiting atm (July)
Fruits   My plants have fruit atm
Etymology  
Warning  
Sap permanently stains clothing
 Edibility
Fruit raw or cooked
Leaf used to cook food in
Medicinal Uses
Headaches, Alopecia, Burns, Bites, Cancer, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Diarrhoea, Fever, Dyssentry, Fractures, Gangrene, Migraine, Nausea and more

























The banana plant has been in cultivation for many years, and the cultivated variety is sterile, producing no seed. The wild bananas that still grow in tropical-subtropical countries produce numerous seed.
Fruit is edible cooked in its green immature stage, or either raw or cooked in its yellow mature stage. The colour of the skin varies with the type of banana, with ‘Blue Java/Ash Plantain’ having a distinct blue tinge to the immature fruit (although ripe fruit is still yellow), and ‘Red Dacca’ having a permanent deep red/maroon skin (although the inside flesh is deep yellow to orange).
'Saba' variety

'Saba' Left; 'Ladyfinger' Middle; 'Cavendish' Right

'Ladyfinger' Left; 'Saba' Right


One of my favourite bananas for flavour and texture is what I think is called ‘Saba’, although I am not sure. It can be eaten raw when ripe, or cooked when green. Simply peel the green bananas, boil, mash, mix with grated ginger, garlic and eschallot/onion, form into cakes and pan fry. Delicious. Cooked green banana tastes somewhat like cooked potato.
Flesh of the Saba banana is a rich warm yellow colour

Peel and chop

Add to pan of hot water

Boil until softish

Add grated garlic, ginger, onion then mash

Shape into cakes, fry

Serve!


Musa has medicinal qualities also, with the whole plant being used in some way. The root has been as anthelmintic (to kill intestinal worms) and for reducing bronchocele. The fruit is eaten to prevent and cure stomach ulcers, in combination with pineapple, blueberries, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. The peel and pulp of ripe banana have both antifungal and antibiotic activity, and the unripe banana fruit has antimicrobial/antibiotic activity  (Fagbemi et al, 2009).
A stem maceration is given orally for the treatment of diabetes in Cuba, also a decoction of the root is given orally for the treatment of unspecified venereal diseases. The same paper reports an unusual method of treating earache, that of frying the leaves and applying topically (Cano & Volpato, 2004).
Flower
Fruit
Musa paradisiacal has been used to treat alopecia (female), headache, burns, bites (snake, dog, spider), cancer (nose), diarrhoea, dysentry, epilepsy, fever, fractures, gangrene, migraines, nausea, smallpox and numerous other diseases. Finding details of how the remedies were prepared for each specific ailment is extremely time consuming, as it involves trawling through vast numbers of journal articles, but as I find records of use, I will add them here. If you have a particular query, just leave a comment and I will see what I can find.

Young plant grown from tissue culture

Young plants



References

Cano, J. & Volpato, G. Herbal mixtures in the traditional medicine of Eastern Cuba. Journal of Ethnopharmacology 90:293-316
Fagbemi, J., Ugoji, E., Tayo, A. & Adelowotan, O. 2009. Evaluation of the antimicrobial properties of unripe banana (Musa sapientum L.), lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus S.) and turmeric (Curcuma longac L.) on pathogens. African Journal of Biotechnology  8 (7): 1176-1182







Monday, July 2, 2012

Ageratum - Blue Billy Goat Weed

Ageratum conyzoides

 A. conyzoides has long been used medicinally around the globe, in addition to possessing insecticidal and nematodicidal activity.
Ageratum conyzoides
Blue Billy Goat Weed
ASTERACEAE

Identification
Erect herbaceous annual, 30-80cm.
 Composite flowers of pale blue/lilac
Entire plant covered in fine white hairs.
Broad ovate leaves, tapering point, serrated margins, soft to touch. Leaves are variable in size and shape, but similar.
Leaves are strongly scented
Fruit is an achene
Cultivation 
Weed, don’t cultivate!
This weed prefers open spaces, paddocks etc, and moisture, but will tolerate dry areas.
Ageratum has a natural range from North America to Central America and the Caribbean.
Flowers  Year round
Fruits   X
Etymology  
a geras” (Greek) – non-aging, referring to the longevity of the flowers and plant
conyzoides” (Greek) – from “kónyz” the greek name for Inula helenium , which it resembles
Warning  
Due to conflicting reports on the edibility of this plant I cannot recommend its use as an edible plant.
Edibility
Caution recommended
Medicinal
Antibacterial – Leaf – wound healing
Insecticidal – (leaf oil) against weevils





Ageratum Flowers


Whilst A. conyzoides has traditionally been eaten as a vegetable, contemporary researchers have discovered in it potential hepatotoxic compounds, which is why I cannot recommend its use as a vegetable today. However, being young, strong and healthy with no liver complaints, I would eat it myself if I were hungry and lacking other food sources. Other studies have found the essential elements K, Na, Ca, Fe, Mg, Mn and Zn and the non-essential elements Al, Ba, Sr and Rb to be present in significant concentrations. Other elements present at trace levels include Co, Cr, Sc and V. The researchers conducting these studies appear to believe that the presence of the elements calcium, potassium and sodium may be responsible for disease prevention in traditional usage, and that Iron Manganese and Zinc presence which are present in hormone, insulin, protein and immune reactions may also contribute to its healing properties in traditional medicine which include the treatment of diabetes, diarrhoea and infertility. These same researchers, however, warn against indiscriminate use (ingestion) of A. conyzoides due to the presence of Barium, which has the potential to accumulate in the body through repeated use and is a known toxin (Dim et al, 2004).

Ageratum -leaf detail
.
Ageratum - opposite leaves. Note hairs
covering plant.

In studies conducted by Borthakur and Baruah (1987) the essential oil of  A. conyzoides has been shown to contain compounds that act as antijuvenile hormones in insects, effectively rendering them sterile, which would explain its use as an insecticide.

Blue Billy Goat Weed has been used to treat  wounds, bites, burns, typhoid fever, ‘body swelling’, tumours and as a ‘hair lotion’. Unfortunately, although several papers have listed which ailments Ageratum has been used to treat, they rarely go into any detail as to which part of the plant was used or how it was prepared. In Africa it has been used to treat pneumonia, although specifics on how to use the plant are not given. Its most common use appears to have been as a fresh leaf poultice for wounds, cuts bites or skin complaints, and this is most likely due to its antibacterial properties. This plant has also shown anti-inflammatory activity and increased wound healing in clinical trials on rats. In South America, A. Conyzoides twigs have been used as a vegetable. Following is a list of its medicinal uses;
Wounds, Bites, Burns –  the leaves are made into a paste and applied directly.
Colic, Colds, Fevers, Diarrhoea, Rheumatism, muscle spasms and as a tonic – aqueous extract (which I assume means a decoction or infusion), although wether for internal or external use is not specified.
Headache – poultice of boiled leaf paste
Bacteriocide, Antidysentric, Fever, Colic – no details given
Ageratum - overall habit
Overall I would suggest only using this plant externally.

References
Dim, L., Funtua, I., Oyewale, A., Grass, F., Umar, I., Gwozdz, R. & Gwarzo, U. 2004. Determination of some elements in Ageratum conyziodes, a tropical medicinal plant, using instrumental neutron activation analysis. Journal of Radioanalytical and Nuclear Chemistry 261 (1) 225-228

Gbolade, A. , Onayade, O. &  Ayinde, B. 1999.  Insecticidal Activity of Ageratum conyzoides L. Volatile Oil against Callosobruchus maculatus F. in Seed Treatment and Fumigation Laboratory Tests. International Journal of Tropical Insect Science  19 : 237-240

Ming, L.C. 1999.  Ageratum conyzoides, A tropical source of medicinal and agricultural products. In: Janick, J. (ed.) Perspectives on New Crops and New Uses.

Saikia , B.,  Rethy,  P.  Gajurel, P.  & Doley, B. 2012. Exotic wild edible plants of Sonitpur District, Assam. Journal Of Biosciences Research 3(1):71-75

Saklani, S. &  Jain, S. 1989. Ethnobotanical Observations on Plants Used in Northeastern India.  1989, Vol. 27, No. 2 , Pages 65-73

Saturday, June 9, 2012


My Bookfest Haul


This weekend the Lifeline Bookfest is being held in the city, and being a book lover I had to have a look. I wasn’t expecting to find much that piqued my interest, but I was pleasantly surprised!






One rare find was a book by Kathleen MacArthur, a fellow wallum enthusiast. The late Kathleen hailed from the Sunshine Coast, where once upon a time wildflowers ruled the land. Unfortunately now, the land appears to be ruled by developers.

Kathleens books


Kathleens books

Kathleen has presented a beautiful book in the form of a diary, filled with her paintings of and dedicated to wildflowers, with a history of each flower. I now have two of her books in my collection.

Another book that I am looking forward to reading is I, the Aboriginal. While not actually written by an Indigenous Australian, it tells of the accounts of a white man’s 30 year relationship with local people, in particular a man named Waipuldanya. Hopefully I will learn more about the plants I love, and how they were a part of people’s lives.



Amazing book for grass identification

 I obtained a set of three volumes that I have never heard of before, weed identification books, including grasses, which I have found decent books on hard to come by. These books have wonderful illustrations making identification quite simple!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Alphitonia excelsa


Alphitonia excelsa


This Australian native medicinal plant is found on rainforest edges and is used as a painkiller.







Alphitonia excelsa
Red Ash, Soap Tree
FAMILY

Identification
Tree<18m, or shrub. Young shoots smell like sarsaparilla. Alternate eaves oblong to ovate or narrow; apex obtuse, acute or acuminate; base cuneate, margin slightly recurved; dark green glabrous above;white pubescent beneath (hairs curly).
Inflorescences axillary panicles; cream flowers. Fruits immature shiny green, mature black.
Habitat
Closed forest, rainforest edges, creek banks.
Found in QLD, NT, NSW and the tip of WA.
Flowers  April-May
Fruits   September-January
Immature green  fruits present in May (S.E.QLD)
Etymology  
Warning  
None
Edibility
None recorded
Medicinal
Anti-inflammatory, Analgesic



 
I first noticed Alphitonia excelsa when driving up the coast. It stands out from the other trees that line the road, being white against the dark green backdrop, and its habit is noticeably spreading, forming horizontal stripes of pale contrast.





I haven’t come across any records of Alphitonia being used as a food source, and even accounts of it being used internally are rare, and limited to chewing of the young leaf tips for stomach aches, although no mention was made of whether they were swallowed or not. The majority of Indigenous Australian remedies are used externally, and one reason given for this is that the Indigenous peoples lacked containers in which to boil water, so relied on overnight soaking of plants in water instead, and that this method was less reliable in terms of dosage (I’m really not sure what the reason was). I have tasted an infusion of Alphitonia, and it has a distinctive flavour, very hard to describe, I guess burnt cloves and soap would be closest.
Infusion
Shaken Infusion
Lather


Making an infusion
Known as soap-bush, due to the lather the leaves produce, this plant is difficult to get a lather from. I made a very strong infusion, and only achieve a lather after vigorously shaking it.


Antibacterial handwash; Alphitonia, Leptospermum & Cymbopogon





Known as soap-bush, due to the lather the leaves produce, this plant is difficult to get a lather from. I made a very strong infusion, and only achieve a lather after shaking it.  I have used it as an antibacterial hand wash, and an antibacterial wash for my dog’s ears. To make this, simply pour freshly boiled water over the crushed leaves, and let sit for a few hours, for external use. I wet a cloth in the warm solution and wash daily inside her ears, drying afterwards, and her ears are now odour free.
Alphitonia with some bark removed. Note hoe red the inner
bark is.
 The bark of Alphitonia is not normally so dark as in the photo with some bark removed, which was taken immediately after a rain. It actually gives quite a light appearance, in part due to the lichens covering it.







Normal colour of the bark










Its main use seems to be based around anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties, and its uses include; leaves have been used to sooth sore eyes; as a bark and wood decoction gargle for tooth-ache; and as an infusion of bark, root and wood as a liniment for body pains. The timber has been used as a dye for cloth (red-brown to orange-yellow).
I used the strong infusion as a liniment, but its effects were rather transitory. When I have the opportunity to collect enough of the bark, I will try making a stronger infusion and see how that works.




References
Cribb, A.B. & Cribb, J.W.1986. Useful Wild Plants in Australia. Fontana Books
Cribb, A.B. & Cribb, J.W. 1981. Wild medicine in Australia. William Collins, pty, ltd
Lassack ,E.V. & McCarthy ,T.2001.  Australian Medicinal Plants. New Holland Publishers
Stanley, t, & Ross, E. 1995. Flora of south-eastern Queensland. Department of Primary Industries









Sunday, May 27, 2012

Bidens pilosa


Bidens pilosa


Bidens pilosa, or Cobblers pegs, is a tropical to subtropical herbaceous weed with edible and medicinal properties. It has a wide distribution, with a centre of diversication in Mexico.

Bidens pilosa
Cobblers pegs
ASTERACEAE

Identification
Square stem. Distinctive seed-head.
 Leaflets  simple, tripartite or dissected, margins serrate.
Inflorescence discoid or radiate.
Linear, obcompressed-quadrangulate, attenuate achenes.
Habitat/Cultivation 
Inhabits wastelands, open fields, urban areas.
Native to Mexico, North and Central America.
Record of collection in Australia by Banks and Solander in 1770!
Flowers  Year round
Fruits   Year round
Etymology  
Warning  
Edibility
Edible young leaves
Medicinal
Anti-bacterial Anti-inflammatory Analgesic Anti-viral Anti-ulcerogenic


This plant is quite variable in appearance, with these two specimen growing within 2m of each other. Note the difference between the leaves.


Fig.1. Simple leaves, with a slightly serrated margin
Fig.2. Tripartite leaf, with a serrated margin























Flowers may either have ray florets or be lacking, or even lose them fairly early.



Fig.3. Inflorescence with ray florets (white)
Fig.4. Inflorescence without ray florets













 






The seed heads (achenes) are an identifying feature, and anyone familiar with this species will know the joys of reming seeds from clothing (If the material is sturdy, seeds may be removed fairly quickly with a knife held at an angle, and used with a movement somewhat like shaving with the old-style razors). I found this interesting photo from a Hawaiian Botany page, contrasting seed heads of different species.

Fig.5. Source-

Fig.6. Seed head. Note barbs on the ends of the seed. This
is what allows the seeds to "stick" to your clothing
Fig.7. Seed head.
















The leaves of Bidens pilosa have been eaten in times of famine in countries such as Africa, and have a strong flavour to them that many find unpleasant. The trick with many leafy edibles is to eat the leaves before the plant starts to flower. If you have ever tried picking loose leaf lettuce after it starts to flower, in the hope of getting just a few more leaves before the plant is inedible, you will know how bitter they can be. It is the same with Bidens pilosa, and while the leaves still have a definite flavour to them, they are more palatable when harvested before anthesis (flower growth).
B. pilosa has been eaten boiled in Mexico, and used as a tea in the Marquesas, China and by Texas Indians. Both B. Pilosa nad B. chinensis (alt. B. biternata) are sold in Java (young apical shoots), used to make wine in the Phillipes (flowers or leaves, fermented with rice-sinitsit) and cooked and eaten (young shoots & older leaves) in Nyasaland.
Although I cannot find record of it, I am fairly sure I have come across some documentation about flour made from the seeds of B. Pilosa, if you know the source, please let me know.
Bidens pilosa has long been in use in traditional medicine, the heated crushed leaves applied as a poultice to wounds and boils, the leaf juice used for ear aches and eye complaints (the latter sometimes mixed with alum or lime), an infusion of the root for eye complaints. An infusion is also used for coughs and colic, with this plant also having use as an antidote to (unspecified) poison. The leaves have been used for jaundice, fever, hepatitis, diarrhoea, worms, pharyngitis, pneumonia and coughs in Brazil. The root is used to treat oedema and snakebite in India. Although I had regarded this little plant as a weed, a member of BushcraftOz forums recently made a most surprising revelation, This plant was actuallt collected in 1770 by Banks and Solander! They have the specimen in the Royal Botanic Gardens herbarium; http://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/science/Evolutionary_Ecology_Research/Botany_of_Botany_Bay/plants/interesting_botany_bay_plants
 
Name
Common name
Family
Food part used
Preparation
Medicinal part used
Ailment
Medicinal preparation

Source
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE
Leaves
Boiling
Leaf
Wounds
Poultice- heated, crushed leaves
 (3)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Boils
Poultice- heated, crushed leaves
(3)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Earache
Juice, warmed
(4)
(5)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Eye complaints
Juice, with or without alum or lime

Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Root
Eye complaints
Root- infusion

Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Plant
Cough
Infusion
(8)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Plant
Collic
Infusion
(8)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Plant
Poison antidote
Juice
(3)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Stomache ache
Powdered leaf in enema
(8)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Seeds
Cuts
Burnt seed
(8)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Flowers
Diarrhoea

(2)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Diarrhoea

(2)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Pharyngitis

(2)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Jaundice

(2)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Fever

(2)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Worms

(2)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Leaf
Hepatitis

(2)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Root
Snakebite

(7)
Bidens pilosa
Cobblers Pegs
ASTERACEAE


Root
Oedema

(7)


References
(1)    Ballard , R. 1986. Bidens pilosa Complex (Asteraceae) in North and Central America.  American Journal of Botany
73: 1452-1465
(2)    Botsaris, A. 2007.  Plants used traditionally to treat malaria in Brazil: the archives of Flora Medicinal. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 2007, 3:18

(3)   Burkill, I.H. A Dictionary of the Economic Products of the Malay Peninsula (Ministry of Agriculture and Co-operatives, Kuala Lumpur, 1966).
(4)    Dalziel, J. M. Useful Plants of West Tropical Africa . London. 1948.
(5)    DeWildeman, E. Sur des Plantes Medici-nales ou Utiles du Mayumbe (Congo Belge). Mem. Inst. Royal Colonial Belge. Vol. VI, Fasc. 4, Brussels. 1938
(6)    Morton, J. 1962. Spanish Needles (Bidens pilosa L.) as a Wild Food Resource.
 Economic Botany. 16:173-179
(7)    Rao, J., Suneetha, J., Reddi, T. & Kumar, O. 2011. Ethnomedicine of the Gadabas, a primitive tribe of Visakhapatnam district, Andhra Pradesh. International Multidisciplinary Research Journal, 1/2:10-14
(8)    Watt, J.M., & Breyer-Brandwijk, M.G. Medicinal and poisonous plants of Southern and Eastern Africa, E. & S. Lvingstone Ltd., Edinburgh and London 1962