Over the River and through the Botanical Garden

20160105_164051_zpsalrrh8nfAt Xandari we offer a garden and farm tour that consists of showing guests through our botanical garden, Mandala garden, and orchid house and educating them on the properties of each of the plants. When I was asked to translate the tour for our head gardener Jose Luis I immediately accepted. However, after agreeing to be the translator it dawned on me that my rudimentary knowledge about plants (species, genus, and all that scientific terminology amounts to high school level biology) could be a limitation to the learning experience of the guests. Adding to my worry, the guests taking the tour are well versed in plant identification and were hoping to learn more about the tropical plants we have. To prepare myself, I skimmed the plant identification binder we have, decided to take it with me on the tour, and hoped for the best.

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When Temples Teach About Forests

Traditional temple gardens, called Nandavanam, are strewn along the banks of the river Tamaraparani that originates in the Western Ghats, India. Each is attached to one of the 150-odd temples in the region, some as old as 1,000 years. PHOTO: Scroll

Traditional temple gardens, called Nandavanam, are strewn along the banks of the river Tamaraparani that originates in the Western Ghats, India. Each is attached to one of the 150-odd temples in the region, some as old as 1,000 years. PHOTO: Scroll

Sacred texts are guides to living while temples and the religious community teach a thing or two about what has been and what will be. But do temple gardens move beyond their aesthetic value and stand for something greater? Yes, their valuable insights into living ecosystems.

Some of these old surviving forest patches are invaluable when it comes to shining a light on what a forest might have been like in the area several thousand years ago, like a relic to an ancient civilisation. Considering the Indian government’s rapid march towards creating new forests to combat deforestation, sacred groves, their histories and regeneration can be a blueprint to such plans. “In short, one could say sacred groves provide a small window into an ecosystem’s past,” said Osuri. “They might even provide a source population and a reference library.”

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Taste Of Kerala – Star Gooseberry

Photo credits : Renjith Rajan

Photo credits: Renjith Rajan

Star Gooseberry is native to the Malay Islands and Madagascar. The small deciduous tree can grow up to 25-30 feet height. Abundantly found in Kerala for its acidic fruits that are mainly used for pickling and for the preparation of preserves. Although it also makes excellent jam, star  gooseberries are also used in traditional medicines.

Betel Leaf – Pan Leaf (Piper betle)

Betel is the leaf of a climbing vine that belongs to the Piperaceae family. A member of the same family as black pepper, they both require a support tree to grow. The plant has many traditional medicinal uses; in Kerala people use the betel leaf to treat headaches, arthritis and joint pain, in China and Thailand the root of the plant is used for toothache. Continue reading

Fever Nut

Fever Nut is a  large thorny shrub bearing light yellow fruits covered with sharp thorns. Its commonly found in the tropical forests of the Western Ghats up to an altitude of 1000 meters.  In Ayurveda the root of the plant is used for treating fever, cough, asthma, worms and colic. The leaves are anthelmintic and useful in treating elephantiasis.

Malabar Nut (Adhatoda Vasica)

Malabar Nut is a large smooth-barked shrub endemic to the Western Ghats that grows up to 4-6 meters in height. The plant has been part of the the Ayurvedic pharmacopeia for 2000 years. The leaves are especially effective in treating irritating cough and other respiratory disorders. Midwives have also used the plant as a natural stimulant to labor.   Continue reading

Trailing Eclipta (Eclipta aalba)

Trailing Eclipta is an erect annual plant with rooted nodes and many branches. The leaves have fibrous hairs on both sides and the flowers are white. These plants thrive in the high ranges of Kerala and the rest of Western Ghats. In Ayurveda these plants are effective in treating inflammation, filariasis, wounds, skin diseases, leprosy, jaundice and fever.

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Indian Gooseberry (Embeklic myrobalan)

Indian Gooseberry, also known as Amla, grows throughout the country in deciduous forest and hill slopes up to an altitude of 900 meters and is also cultivated in plains  for commercial purpose. This medium sized tree can grow up to 10- 15  meters in height and produces round and juice fruits. The leaves are used to treat conjunctivitis, inflammation and diarrhoea. The fruits are used in wide range of disorders including colic, ulcers, diarrhoea, and cardiac disorders.

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Thorn Apple (Devil’s Apple)

Thorn Apple is an erect succulent annual shrub which grows throughout India especially in the Western Ghats  and is untended land, roadsides and farms. The plant is useful in treating asthma , cough ,fever ,ulcer and skin diseases  Traditionally the roots are used to treat rabid dog  bites and even insanity and the leaves are useful to treat epilepsy. Continue reading

Sensitive Smithia (Smithia Sensitiva)

Sensitive Smithia is a low growing shrub found in and around the Western Ghats up to 1200 meters above sea level. It is flourishes along the roads as the monsoon trails off. The leaves are slightly sensitive to the touch, hence the name. The plant is enjoyed in multiple ways; bees feed off the the nectar of the flowers and people cook and eat the leaves and shoots as well as using other parts for Ayurvedic medicine.

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