In the “Flowering Plants of TDU” blog series, we look at some of the beautiful flowering plants that dot our serene green campus.
A graceful plant locally known as Nagadamani, Vishamandala, Sudarsana or Vishamungali, Crinum asiaticum has long, tender sword like leaves. The leaves arise from an underground bulb similar to onions (but not edible). Its lacy white flowers with long thin petals arise at the end of stout stalk that comes up from the bulb. The flowers last a couple of days and soon start to form thick round fruits that contain 7-8 regularly seeds inside. The weight of the fruits makes the stalk fall to the ground, which works well for the plant as these seeds can germinate right where they fall.
Ecology: Bulbs are food storage organs that help plants survive during difficult times of the year. In the wild, these plants are seasonal. They are not visible at all during the dry season i.e the bulbs are there underground, but there is nothing seen above the ground. They are loved by boars that dig through the soil to reach the juicy bulbs. After the first pre-monsoon showers, they put out their leaves and become quite leafy by the time the monsoon arrives. Flowers then follow and the plant makes many seeds. When rainfall reduces and the season changes, the leaves and everything else withers away and the plant goes into dormancy until the next year.
Medicinal Uses: The plant has multiple ethno-medicinal uses. The plant or plant part is used for gastrointestinal disorders, skin diseases, fever, earache, boils, tonsillitis, mumps, hernia, rheumatism, urinary troubles, bone fracture, edema, and also as an antidote to poison. The bulbs and leaves are used throughout India in folk medicine. Folk herbalists of the Tipuri tribe in Tripura use the bulbs of the plant to treat tonsillitis. The Gonds of Andhra Pradesh consume the roasted bulbs to kill worms in the stomach and also as an aphrodisiac. In Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh the bulbs are roasted and eaten to cure rheumatism and piles.