Catharanthus roseus – Cancer fighting

Catharanthus  roseus – Madagascar Periwinkle

The plant has been called a miracle in the prevention of childhood leukemia and cancer treatment.  To protect Madagascar periwinkle is to protect the future of your children in the opinion of many.  It has been suggested that, instead of using the site effects causing chemical drugs, people should use use Catharanthus roseus extraction.

The photo shows petals of Madagascar periwinkle, is taken by Salah

The photo shows petals of Madagascar periwinkle, is taken by Salah

Continue reading

Posted in Africa, Americas, Asia, Madagascar, Species, Students | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Curcuma longa : Folklore or Medical Marvel?

Records dating as far back as 600BC note that turmeric can cure anything from a sore throat to cancer. But are these just old wives’ tales or is turmeric as medically useful as they claim..? Continue reading

Posted in Asia | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The world’s most wonderful weed?

During one of my first days of study for a masters degree in Plant Diversity at Reading University, we visited the Tropical Biodiversity Greenhouse. A pungent odour from a very brightly coloured plant came straight to my nose! The plant in question was Lantana camara.

Fig 1. Lantana camara shrubs, displaying different colours © Colin Clubbe, 2013 & © Sara Bárrios, 2013

Fig 1. Lantana camara shrubs, displaying different colours © Colin Clubbe, 2013 & © Sara Bárrios, 2013

We’ve covered a diverse range of plant families since then, but I now have the pleasure of returning to this most interesting plant. So, let me introduce you… Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Australia, Countries, Evolution, Neotropics, People, Species, Students | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Pinguicula gigantea – natural pest control

Pinguicula gigantea growing in a 15cm (6 inch) clay pan.

Pinguicula gigantea growing in a 15cm (6 inch) clay pan.

The butterworts, known botanically as Pinguicula, are a varied and widespread genus.  British botanists are used to seeing two species growing in very wet areas however in Mexico many of the butterworts grow in seasonally arid places and have thick succulent leaves and overwintering small rosettes to survive adverse conditions.  In a previous blog I reported the arrival of some Mexican butterworts to our tropical teaching collection.  Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Integrated Pest Management, Mexico | Leave a comment

Ginger ( Zingiber officinale Rosc.): Aromatic Spice and Medicinal Herb.

 

Zingiber officinale in the Tropical Glasshouse. Photo by Jan Walpole

Zingiber officinale in the Tropical Glasshouse. Photo by Jan Walpole

In the cold, wet, dreary days of a British winter, a warming spice from a tropical country may be just the thing to lift the spirits. Valued both as a spice and as a medicinal herb in India and China since ancient times, Ginger, or Zingiber officinale, is one of the most popular spices worldwide and is widely used in food, medicines, drinks and toiletries around the globe.

In Europe, during the 13th and 14th centuries, it was second only to pepper (Piper nigrum) in its popularity and at the time of Henry VIII it was believed to ward off plague (Ravindrun and Babu, 2005; Purseglove, 1981).  More recently, research has taken place into the medicinal properties of the plant and exciting new therapeutic applications are still being found. Continue reading

Posted in Asia, Crops, Species, Students | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Aframomum melegueta (Grains of paradise) is not Alligator pepper part 2

This gallery contains 7 photos.

 “I put a few between my teeth and crunched. They cracked like coriander releasing a billowing aroma, and then a slowly intensifying heat, like pepper at the back of my mouth. The taste changes in a second. The heat lingered. … Continue reading

More Galleries | 2 Comments

Rabbit-Foot Fern

Dr. Percival Lowell, in one of his books, (Mars as the Abode of Life), tells us that, “When the earth was young and still so warm that it was continually enveloped in a thick blanket of steam-warmer everywhere than at the tropics to-day,  yet cool enough to support plant life-in the vast marshes which made up so large a portion of the continents, cryptogams composed the greater part of the vegetation attesting by the habits of the ferns of to-day the shady half-light in which they must have lived”.

This gives the impression that ferns are relatively primitive, dominating Earth long before seed-bearing plants and flowers appeared.  However we can tell from the fossil record that ferns have changed substantially over time with some modern species showing recent appearance and adaptation to conditions that are often not moist or mild. They have adapted themselves wonderfully to changed conditions in the course of ages. This requires a powerful ability to withstand cataclysmic climate change and survive. Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Evolution, Ferns, Learning and Teaching, People, Students | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Mimosa pudica: U Can’t Touch This!

M. pudica illustration from Francisco Manuel Blanco's "Flora de Filipinas", 1877-1883. Image: Public Domain

Left: No Mimosa for you, dear reader. Photo: by vxla [CC BY 2.0]. RightM. pudica illustration from Francisco Manuel Blanco‘s “Flora de Filipinas“, 1877-1883. Image: Public Domain.

Mimosas all round? No, definitely not the alcoholic beverage! The mimosa I’m talking about is Mimosa pudica L. [Fabaceae], a creeping herb that’s continuing to fascinate the world – both botanists and non-botanists alike!

Mix one part of thoroughly chilled mimicry with one part of sparkling brilliance, sit back, and watch the leaflets fold… Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Evolution, People, Species, Students | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Utricularia gibba L. – la femme fatale

A beautiful and innocent flower above the water surface, a killer underneath… thin and delicate as a hairy root Utricularia gibba is hidden awaiting its next victim… Continue reading

Posted in Carnivorous Plants, Species | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The flowering tree nymph in the greenhouse

There’s a special orchid in flower right now in the tropical greenhouse. Its name is Dryadella pusiola, and it’s special because its flowers are very, very small. Small enough to be dwarfed by a 5p! This orchid is the first to flower from a donation to the Greenhouse from Dr William Purvis, which arrived this winter.

Dryadella pusiola size comparison vs 5p

Dryadella pusiola size comparison vs 5p

Continue reading

Posted in Americas, Countries, Mexico, Monocots, Species | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment