Potato plant(Phyllanthus reticulatus)

Botanical Name : Phyllanthus reticulatus
Family: Phyllanthaceae/Euphorbiaceae
Tribe: Phyllantheae
Genus: Phyllanthus
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Malpighiales
Common Names: potato plant, roast potato plant (Eng); aartappelbos (Afr); intaba-yengwe, umchumelo (isiZulu); thethenya (xiTsonga)
Sanskrit Synonyms:  Poolika, Krishnakamboji

Hindi Name ;Pancholi, Makhi

Malayalam Name: Niroori, Niroli

Parts Used :  Roots, Leaves.

Habitat :Phyllanthus reticulatus is very common and widespread in the Okavango Delta. It often grows in low altitudes in riverine thickets. It is distributed along the Eastern Cape and Kwa- Zulu Natal coastal areas, Limpopo Province, Zimbabwe and throughout tropical Africa.

Description:
Phyllanthus reticulatus is usually a dense deciduous shrub or small tree with a distinct smell that is emitted by the minute flowers when they open towards the early evening. This is one of the fascinating characteristic smells of Africa. Despite its name, this plant which belongs to the Euphorbiaceae is not at all related to the true potato which belongs to the family Solanaceae.
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Phyllanthus reticulatus is a many branched shrub, sometimes partially scrambling, usually 1-5 m high, or a small twiggy tree that grows up to 8 m in height. The bark is light reddish-brown or grey-brown with hairy stems when young, which become smooth with age.

The leaves alternate along slender branches. They are up to 25 cm long and appear as leaflets of large pinnate leaves. The leaves are thinly textured, usually hairless. They have a noticeable reddish net-veining which is more visible above than below.

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The potato plant has very small greenish-yellow flowers with a reddish tinge. They are clustered on the tips of short slender branches that are about 3 cm long. The flowers appear before or with the leaves. One female and a number of male flowers are grouped together.

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The flowers of this plant are responsible for the strange smell of potatoes which is often encountered along river banks in the Lowveld, particularly on spring and summer evenings. It flowers from September to October, but the flowering season can extend from July onwards. P. reticulatus has very small, roundish berry like fruits that are green at first, turning purple-black, 4-6 mm in diameter.

Propagation & Cultivation :
P. reticulatus grows easily from seeds. Stored seeds should be soaked in water for a day and then be scrubbed with a brush to remove the fleshy part. They must then be sown in trays filled with normal potting soil. They should not be planted too deep as they can easily rot. Trays must be kept in a warm area, away from direct sunlight, but not too dark. The soil must be kept moist, but not wet to prevent seed from rotting. The seeds take 7 to 11 days to germinate. There is a very low success rate in growing potato bush through cuttings.

Potato bush grows best in deep moist soil, but can also tolerate sandy but not too dry conditions. This plant is best planted together with other taller bushes where it can scramble.

Medicinal Uses:
P. reticulatus has numerous medicinal uses. Roots, bark, leaves, as well as fruits are used for a large number of complaints, notably to treat asthma and coughs, and for injuries of the skin. And varity of ailments including smallpos,syphilis,asthama,diarrhea and bleeding from gums. Moreover,it is also claimed the plant has antidiabetic activity in tribal areas.

The leaves and roots are used as medicine for the fractures and traumatic injury.

Medicinal Properties of the Plant as per Ayurveda: Plant pacifies vitiated vata, pitta, diabetes, burning sensation, burns, skin diseases, obesity and urinary retention.

Other Uses:
Tannin or dyestuff: A black ink is prepared in the Philippines from the ripe fruits. In Indonesia a decoction of stem and leaves was used for dyeing cotton black. It is also used as a mordant. In India the root is reported to produce a red dye. The wood is sometimes used to make utensils.

Disclaimer:The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplements, it is  always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
http://www.plantzafrica.com/plantnop/phyllanthusret.htm
http://web.usm.my/jps/19-2-08/Article%2019-2-5.pdf
http://www.hkflora.com/v2/leaf/euphor_show_plant.php?plantid=1097
http://enchantingkerala.org/ayurveda/ayurvedic-medicinal-plants/niroori.php
http://www.worldagroforestrycentre.org/sea/Products/AFDbases/af/asp/SpeciesInfo.asp?SpID=18066
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phyllanthus

 

 

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