At 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.
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.”
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.
Common Rattle Pod plants are frequently found along river banks and fields as well as in the hills up to 1200 meters. The flowers are showy and large, and favored by carpenter bees. Continue reading
The Western Hill Banana is a large succulent herb that naturally grows in the rocky slopes and cliffs of South India’s Western Ghats. These plants are commonly growing in the forests above 1000 meters. The fruits of this plant is used in many traditional medicines. Continue reading
The Tamarind is a large evergreen tree that grows up to 30 to 35 metres in height with beautiful flowers. Tamarind grows all over India, especially in hot and dry climate. Continue reading
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
A native of India’s Western Ghats, Cardamom belongs to the Ginger family. Known as the “Queen Of Spices”, it is one of the most famous and popular spices used in India and the Middle East. The dried berry of the plant is called chotti elaichi in Hindi, which means small cardamom. Continue reading
The Red Silk Cotton is a fast growing tree growing widely in the Western Ghats forest areas. These trees can reach a height of 35-40 meters, and bear large red-orange flowers from December to March. The timber of the tree is very soft and used for making plywood and match boxes. Continue reading
East Indian Klugia (Rhynchoglossum notonianum) is an annual herb which is commonly growing on hilly slopes in the Western Ghats above 900 metres. The flowers are a deep, rich blue and hang downwards. Continue reading
Alpinia is a perennial shrub in the ginger family that grows to a height of 2 meters found widely in the Western Ghats of Kerala. The rhizome of this herb is a major ingredient of many local remedies for relieving inflammation, stimulating digestion and purifying the blood.
Dwarf White Bauhinia is a garden growing plant that can grow up to 2 meters in height. Its flowers are rich in pollen and nectar that attract various insects such as butterflies, moths and bees. It is also one of the host plants for many butterflies species and the larvas of certain moth species feed on the flowers.
Fire Flame Bush is a many branched deciduous shrub that grows to a height of 4-5 meters. It takes its name from the red coloration of both its bark and its flowers. It grows throughout Kerala up to an altitude of 1500 meters.
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.
Native to India and Sri Lanka Blue Fountain Bush is widely growing in the Western Ghats especially in the high ranges of Kerala up to 2000 meters. These large shrubs can be found in hilly forested areas. Its flowers attract butterflies and the leaves and roots are used in traditional medicine. Continue reading
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 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.
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.
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 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.