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Friday, March 9, 2012


This amazing plant is native to the tropics, from the island of Madagascar through Asia to Polynesia. It is a member of the Araceae family of plants, making it a relative of the arum or Calla lily, the cuckoo pint and sweet flag. Another name for it is the corpse flower which is the name of a similar plant, Rafflesia arnoldii, another plant which smells as this one does of rotting flesh. The flower, when it opens generates heat and the smell of rotting flesh which lasts for a few hours, to attract the carrion-eating flies which pollinate it. The flower itself stays in bloom for only five days.
  It resembles a small tree while it is growing, with numerous leaves which can stretch to over a metre wide. It doesn’t flower every year, but the corm is valued most of all parts of the plant, and this can weigh several kilos.
  The tuber of the Elephant Yam or the Stink Lily as this is also called, is edible, if thoroughly cooked, although the wild variety is poisonous and should be left alone. The cultivars are regarded as a delicacy in the Philippines and other countries, and they are also much prized in medicine. This plant also has a synonym, Amorphophallus campanulata, with the genus name coming from the Greek, amorphos meaning without form and phallus.
  It is used in medicine in Papua New Guinea where it grows in dry lands, such as savannahs, at the margins of forests and swamp forests near the coast. The sap from the stem is fermented and used to treat diarrhoea and dysentery and the inside of the stem is cut and eaten raw as an antidote for snakebites.
  In the Indian subcontinent it is used in traditional medicine systems, and in Ayurveda it is used for numerous illnesses ranging from minor ailments such as coughs through to improving the quality of sperm and for liver and spleen disorders. As a vegetable the tuber is used to treat piles and haemorrhages.
  The tuber has been the subject of various scientific tests and its extracts have been reported to have antibacterial, anti-mycobacterial, antiviral, anti-inflammatory, analgesic (mild pain-killing) and blood pressure lowering effects. Other studies have found that it reduces muscle spasms, and that it has similar effects to diazepam on the central nervous system.
  These studies support the use of the plant in traditional systems of medicine.

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