Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Solanum nigrum - Meranti

Sayur Meranti or ranti is Solanum nigrum, a short-lived perennial shrub of Solanaceae family, native to Eurasia.

Meranti has small white flowers with 5 lobed corolla, about 5mm-8mm in diameter, with yellow stamens.  Fruit is berry, green, about 6mm-8mm diameter turn black when ripens.  It is reported that there is a red fruits strain in India.

However, meranti can be confused with a variety of other related nightshades : Solanum americanum, Solanum ptycanthum, and Solanum villosum.   I myself cannot be really sure if the Meranti I encountered is really a Solanum nigrum.

S. nigrum is harvested for its berries and leaves.  It can be consumed raw as salad or cooked.

Solanum nigrum - Meranti's berries, leaves, and flowers

Solanum nigrum - cross section of a Meranti's berry, exposing its seeds

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Melastoma malabatricum - Senduduk

Melastoma malabathricum is known as senduduk ( Malay ) or straits Rhododendron.  Together with some 50 other species, it is a member of the Melastomataceae family from S.E.Asia, India and Australia.

It is an evergreen shrub, up to 2 m tall.  
Grows well in most tropical habitat.  
Propagation via seeds.  Seeds dispersed by birds.

Stem with appressed scales.
Leaves ovate, hairy,  4-14cm length x 1.7-3.5cm width.
Flowers in clusters, produced at tip of shoots.  Petals reddish purple.
Fruit is a berry-like capsule with numerous seeds coated with red, sweet astringent pulp.

Seeds dimorphic, with and without embryo.  
Fertile seeds folded or spiral, triangular to D-shaped, 0.45-0.8m long x 0.35-0.5mm wide ; testa light yellow to dark cream coloured.  
Infertile seeds appear similar to fertile seeds but smaller, 0.3-0.5mm long x 0.2-0.3mm wide ; appeared collapsed, dented, or wringkled ; testa black or reddish-black.

Fruits is edible, sandy-feel taste, and stain the mouth and teeth dark-blued.  The fruits are also used to produce black dye. 
The roots are used to produce pink dye.

Due to its growth habit, it is regarded as noxious weed in many places.
However, regardless of its nuisance to human, it provides abundant food to birds, and other small mammals.  Its flowers attract butterflies, and its leaves host caterpillars.   

Flower, at full bloom

Matured fruit

Ripe fruit, cracked open


References :
1. Federal Nozious Weed Disseminules of the U.S.
2. Encyclopedia of Life
3. Wikipedia

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Jasmine is not Just Jasmine

Jasmine is a genus of shrubs and vines in the Oleaceae family, with about 200 species, native to tropical and warm temperate regions of the Old World. 

The most famous is probably Jasminum sambac, the Arabian jasmine.  Despite its English common name, J. sambac is not originally native to Arabia.  It was from South and S.E. Asia, and were spread into Arabia.  From there, they were introduced to Europe. 

Jasminum sambac
Family : Oleaceae
Common name : Arabian Jasmine, 茉莉花
Description : evergreen shrub, flower : white, fragrant, clusters, zygomorphic, multiple petals, full bloom at night
Origin : South Asia, S.E.Asia
Uses : ornamental, jasmine tea, national flowers of the Philippine & Indonesia, leis, corsages, crowns

The word 'jasmine' also loosely refers to many other flowers not of Jasminum genus or Oleaceae family.  

Cestrum nocturnum
Family : Solanaceae
Common name : Night-blooming Jasmine, lady of the Night, 夜来香,夜香木
Description : evergreen woody shrub, flower : greenish-white, cymose inflorescences, zygomorphic, tubular corolla 5 lobed, full bloom at night
Origin : tropical America
Uses : ornamental

Gardenia jasminoides
Family : Rubiaceae
Common name : Cape Jasmine, Common Gardenia, 栀子花
Description : evergreen woody shrub, flower : white, fragrant, solitary, zygomorphic, multiple petals
Origin : Asia
Uses : depicted in Chinese paintings, fruit for Chinese traditional medicine & dye, ornamental

Gelsemium sempervirens
Family : Gelsemiaceae
Common name : Yellow Jasmine, Carolina Jasmine, Evening Trumpet flower, Woodbine
Description : evergreen liana, flower : yellow, fragrant, clusters, zygomorphic, bell-shaped, corolla 5 lobed
Origin : tropical America
Uses : ornamental, toxic, state flower of South Carolina

Millingtonia hortensis
Family : Bignoniaceae
Common name : Tree Jasmine, Indian Cork Tree, 烟筒花
Description : evergreen tree, flower : white, fragrant, panicles, bisexual, zygomorphic, long tube, corolla 5 lobed
Origin : S.E.Asia
Uses : wood for timber, bark for cork, leaves for tobacco substitute

Nyctanthes arbor-tristis
Family : Oleaceae
Common name : Night Flowering Jasmine, Coral Jasmine
Description : evergreen shrub, flower : white with orange-red center, fragrant, cluster of 2-7, zygomorphic, 5-8 lobed, full bloom at night
Origin : Southern Asia
Uses : Ayurvedic medicine

Trachelospermum jasminoides
Family : Apocynaceae
Common name : Star Jasmine, Confederate Jasmine, Trader’s Compass, 络石 , 百花藤
Description : evergreen liana, flower : white, fragrant, clusters, zygomorphic, tube-liked, corolla 5 lobed
Origin : East Asia
Uses : ornamental