Won­der Weed

Not all weeds are bad. Some ac­tu­ally con­trib­ute to the well-be­ing of the en­vi­ron­ment in their own lit­tle ways, writes Elaine Yim

New Straits Times - - Pulse -

THE re­garded as a wide­spread weed or pest plant, is listed as a nox­ious weed in the US and Aus­tralia. But here in this coun­try, we can find it grow­ing and bloom­ing ev­ery­where, es­pe­cially along the road­side. Even though its lit­tle daisy-like flow­ers are quite pretty, not many peo­ple bother to take a closer look at them since they are so com­mon.

Weeds are of­ten re­garded as bad for the en­vi­ron­ment be­cause they can be­come very in­va­sive to the ex­tent that they threaten the sur­vival of na­tive species, com­pete with gar­den plants and re­duce the yield of food crops. But this com­mon weed ac­tu­ally con­trib­utes to a bet­ter en­vi­ron­ment in its own lit­tle way. Not only does it pro­vide food for wildlife pol­li­na­tors such as bees, moth, wasps, ants and other bugs, but it’s also a pop­u­lar nec­tar food plant for many types of but­ter­flies.

Some ex­am­ples of these gor­geous but­ter­flies are the Tawny Coster (Acraea vi­o­lae), Crim­son Tip (Colo­tis danae), Plain Tiger (Danaus chrysip­pus), Pea Blue (Lampi­des boeti­cus), For­get-menot (Ca­tochrysops strabo), Com­mon Gull (Ce­pora ner­issa), Gram Blue (Euchrysops cne­jus) and Striped Pier­rot (Taru­cus nara).

The leaves have medic­i­nal prop­er­ties and they’re used in In­dian tra­di­tional and Ayurveda medicine.

Sci­en­tific re­search is on­go­ing on its ap­pli­ca­tion in cur­ing many mod­ern dis­eases. Now let’s get to know more about this won­der weed. THE PLANT

Tri­dax procum­bens is an herba­ceous peren­nial na­tive to trop­i­cal Amer­ica. It has be­come nat­u­ralised in many coun­tries around the world in re­gions with trop­i­cal, sub-trop­i­cal, as well as mild tem­per­ate cli­mates and is re­garded as a weed or pest plant in many places.

The plant grows pros­trate on the ground, creep­ing with long stems that can ex­tend to more than 70cm long. These stems can form new roots at the leaf nodes. The sim­ple leaves are green in colour, oval-shaped and al­ter­nately ar­ranged.

Flow­er­ing oc­curs freely the whole year round. Mem­bers of the Com­posi­tae fam­ily bear com­pos­ite flow­ers and each flower head is made up of many flow­ers; the ray flo­rets and disc flo­rets are packed densely to­gether in rows around a cen­tre.

The ray flo­rets are those with con­spic­u­ous cream yel­low bracts and they’re ar­ranged on the outer cir­cle while the in­ner rings com­prise disc flo­rets which are tiny flow­ers with tubu­lar corol­las. Each com­pos­ite flower head is held up by a long, hairy stalk that can ex­tend 30cm tall.

The fruit is called an ach­ene. It con­tains only a sin­gle seed and doesn’t break open when ripe to re­lease the seed. The ach­ene is cov­ered with long hairs and this feath­ery wing helps in the dis­per­sal when car­ried by the wind to far­away places. Each plant can pro­duce more than a thou­sand ach­enes, which ex­plains its abil­ity to self-seed hence its sur­vival skill to be­come so in­va­sive in cer­tain ar­eas.

IDEAL CON­DI­TIONS FOR GROWTH

It grows as a weed along path­ways, by the road­side, drain and wall cracks, rock crevices, fields, open ar­eas and dump­sites. Not too fussy with soil re­quire­ments, it can flour­ish in sunny lo­ca­tions where the soil is dry and sandy. This weed that grows wild and free by the road­side is a nec­tar plant for many but­ter­flies.

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