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Giants in minuscule diamond flower
Published on: Sunday, April 11, 2021
By: Eskay Ong
‘GIANTS’ and ‘minuscule’. These are words that carry contrasting meanings. And there are plenty of contrasts in nature, ranging from A to Z.
Even when dealing with plants in urban or rural greens, it is always an enjoyable sight to take in the superlatives and extremes, especially in relation to colours, shapes, yield, longevity, size etc.
In the latter, most people would consider the physical attributes such as height of plant or tree and its spread, girth of trunk or stem, as well as the length, thickness or weight of the product.
There are plants with fruits and seeds that are so minuscule that it has become a hassle just to be able to handle them physically.
Such plants are usually very small, with fruit size that may measure only a couple of millimetres in diameter, while the seeds are in fractions of a millimetre.
These things must be truly tiny indeed and are nearly impossible to pick up using thick fingers alone, which is why many people have undergone agonising moments while trying to sort out grain from chaff with blurry eyes and clumsy fingers.
There are plenty of tiny plants everywhere, but within cultivated spaces such as gardens and pots in the backyard, it is always not easy to spot the obscure spots that they like to grow in, unless one’s back or neck is able to bend down even lower to take a peek at where the Lilliputians are hiding.
But care has to be exercised to prevent overstretched ligaments, slipped discs or twisted joints which would result in loss of enjoyment of the activity.
Very often, tiny plants can be found tucked away shyly within some damp and dim corners such as behind a stack of bricks, planter boxes or heavy clay pots.
Sometimes, thickly-foliaged plants also provide ample suitable spaces for many minute plants to lodge onto. These then become an ecosystem by itself, and eventually, there will be a lot of compost materials to benefit the surrounding plants.
Recognising a useful tiny plant
A plant growing in the garden or behind some pots may be very minuscule and unobtrusive but that does not mean it has nothing else that is good enough to offer. Sometimes, small is also power, and at the same time, it may also be a giant in its own right. For instance, a little plant commonly known as Diamond Flower, a native of tropical and subtropical Asia, packs a gigantic punch as it is widely used to benefit the health of human beings.
While the name may sound rare, the plant is actually not so rare if one cares to poke around at the base of pots or simply around the shrubs and soil beds in the garden. Small plants like the Diamond Flower or Hedyotis corymbosa may be a diminutive herb but it is a giant when used in the field of traditional medicine.
Diamond Flowers are slender herbaceous rambling plants that are more prostrate than erect. Nevertheless, such plants can attain a height of 30-40cm with a spread that may double that.
Each plant may produce numerous inflorescences ranging from 2-8 numbers at the axillaries, with stalks or peduncles of length 8-15mm. Each tiny flower is borne at the end of a flower stalk measuring 4-8mm in length.
At the end of the flowering stage, short, capsule-shaped fruits are formed that turn from green to brown on complete ripening. Within each 1-3 mm diameter fruit can be found 20 or more brown seeds each of which measures from 0.20-0.25 mm in diameter. This means the seeds are so tiny that they can be easily mistaken for dust or talcum powder.
Diamond Flowers are propagated by seeds and fragments of roots and stems. Stem which are often thinner than a pencil lead, may be cut and taken with nodes.
Alternatively, prostrate stems that are in contact with soil or some other medium, may issue roots at the nodes, and these are the perfect materials to start new plants on a fast-track basis.
However, the easiest way is to either dig up entire plants and transplant them, or else grab a handful of brownish dry fruit capsules and then crush them before scattering them over a suitable growing medium that are preferably clean and free of grass or leafy weeds.
This method may take a couple of weeks longer to see appreciably-sized plants, but it is worth the while relaxing, and waiting for hundreds of plants to show up.
There are several stages of growth and development that Diamond Flowers undergo to complete a cycle. These begin with the vegetative growth and development of the plant body, to be followed by flowering and fruiting, and then finally, seed development.
The most decent stage is the vegetative growth stage where the foliage are neat and richly green, while the seed development state appears to be the most messy, due in part to the multiple brown fruit pods and some twisted stems and dead foliage.
Diamond Flowers are quite hardy plants, and they are able to tolerate most kinds of soils including the heavy clayey, medium or light sandy soils. They are also tolerant of moist or perpetually damp or waterlogged conditions.
Such characteristics allow them to continue the multiplication of the variety without serious hindrances.
All these features add to its ability to invade new territories that often result in them being labelled as invasive. Abandoned sites and farms, lawns, unkempt gardens, lawn grasses and cultivated plots often face such a problem.
Fortunately, the problem is easy to tackle by sending in a lawn mower or a backpack grass cutter. The accompanying problem is that the machines may send more seeds flying over an even wider area, which may need more cuts in the months ahead.
If the plant is considered to be invasive, its spread is much aided by human negligence through the transporting of contaminated soils, water, garden or agricultural produce, movement of vehicles and equipment, humans and animals etc.
Obviously, large amounts of contaminant seeds can be moved around unknowingly, unless strict phytosanitary practices are enforced.
1. Medicinal uses – The Diamond Flower is one from among several species within the genus that is well-known as medicinal plants and are often used in herbal preparations for consumption.
It is widely used in Chinese communities all over the world especially in TCM or traditional herbal medical uses. As a traditional medicinal herb, it is often recommended for use in anti-bacterial and anti-inflammation prescriptions, as well as a host of other ailments. Regular consumption of the herb also helps to enhance bodily immune systems and thus protects the body from being easily ravaged. Any credible sing sang or expert in TCM should be able to provide a long discourse on the benefits and efficacy of the herb.
2. As a food item – Diamond Flowers can basically be considered as a vegetable food as the entire plant can be eaten. This includes the stems, leaves, roots, fruits and seeds, and once stir-fried with garlic in a sizzling-hot kuali, every bit, morsel and scrap will be wolfed down with gusto.
3. As a source of organic dye – Flourishing Diamond Flower colonies should be able to yield a lot of separate plants each of which have their own cluster of fibrous roots. Usually the entire plant is lifted and then washed thoroughly, with the top part prepared for the kuali, while the roots may be air dried and then crushed to yield a limited quantity of sap. This can be used to dye paper or fabric to result in a greenish tinge, but with multiple applications, a deeper and darker green may be obtained. But it is not known if the dye can be applied on hair, beard or moustache.
4. Method of consumption – Normally, Diamond Flowers are either stir-fried, blanched or steamed and then eaten with a variety of spices or gravy. Alternatively, they may be chewed and then ground between the teeth into a smooth fine paste before being swallowed and then washed down with a suitable beverage. This is quite common and is similar to the way people chew up rubber such as chewing gum. Another way is to prepare concoctions which are then drunk as a tea to alleviate the body of heat and balance the qi especially during hot and dry days, and also to reduce toxins in body fluids.
5. Desirable features – Diamond Flowers have soft, fluffy foliage spread out on the surface of the ground, and if the plants are very dense and have achieved a thickness of 10-20cm or more, they should feel very soft and comfortable indeed.
This is the perfect time for a few young or old blokes to gather together to enjoy the luxury of a carpet in the garden by lying down and then rolling lengthwise over the patch of tender plants. It is certainly a win-win situation for the folks as well as the plants.
A small stash of Diamond Flower with a great number of mature brown fruits.
Green fruits with their horns and their long fruit stalks.
A collection of dry fruit capsules. The few tiny black specks are the seeds. When the capsules are crushed, a lot of black seeds will be released.
A patch of Diamond Flower with a few other contaminants.
A pot fully filled with overgrowing Diamond Flowers.
A cluster of flower and fruits with their characteristic four horns.
Elongated leaves with flower and fruit stalks at the axils.All fruits and flowers are born on stalks of peduncle or pedicel of varying lengths.
Juicy plants can be harvested to be put on the table.
Cuttings can be used to generate new plants especially those with roots at the nodes, but using seeds would be much easier with more seedlings.
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