Plant of the Month 2
Arabic name: Markh, Sudad
Common name: Broom Brush, Khimp (in Hindi and Urdu)
Family name: Asclepiadaceae
Found: Arabia, Africa, Indian Subcontinent
Photo Credits: Alexey Sergeev, Flora of Qatar (All images from Qatar)
Leptadenia pyrotechnica (Forssk.) Decne. is in the flowering plant family Asclepiadaceae, named for Asclepias the Greek God of healing. Many plants in this family produce latex that, in the past, was used medicinally. You will also recognize this family as the family of milkweeds, which Monarch butterflies consume. The butterflies consume the milkweed and sequester the toxins in their own flesh, making them unpalatable to birds.
Leptadenia pyrotechnica is found as both a shrub or tree correlating with browsing pressure. In Qatar we often see meter high shrub versions given they are a favorite food of camels. Yet in the southwest of Qatar in areas protected from grazing the plant can reach a stunning 3-4 meters. It is native to Qatar with only a local distribution and is found in the western coastal areas and southwest of Qatar in the sandy soils near Kharrara and Traina.
The small, yellow/green flowers are produced in March-April. The flowers are unique in their morphology, comparable to the complexity of orchids. The pollinia are held within hoods of the corona and are released when an insect leg enters the hood, emerging with the pollinia attached.
This native plant has been brought into cultivation and is available at some local nurseries.
In the North African Sahel region, (Sahara) Leptadenia Pyrotechnica seed maceration is used as eye lotion and eye bath. Seed tufts of Leptadenia Pyrotechnica are used for making fire. Pyrotechnica etymology stems from the Greek words pyro (“fire”) and tekhnikos (“made by art”) (Pyrotechnica means ‘fire making’). The plant sap is rubbed on the skin to treat smallpox and dermatitis. An infusion of the aerial parts is taken as a diuretic to treat kidney disorders, kidney stones and cough. In the Hoggar region in southern Algeria, the twigs are macerated and the liquid drunk to treat urinary retention. In Sudan a root decoction is taken to treat constipation and colic. The smoke of the burnt stems is inhaled to treat rheumatism. In Yemen crushed stems are applied to wounds to stop bleeding. In Pakistan a stem decoction is taken as an antihistaminic and an expectorant. The roots are further used to treat stomach complaints.
The plant is used in thatching huts and for making ropes. The bark yields a fibre which is not easy to extract, but when obtained produces an excellent non-rotting fibre
good for cordage and fishing lines.
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