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Arbutus unedo

Botanical Name :Arbutus unedo
Family: Ericaceae
Genus: Arbutus
Species: A. unedo
Kingdom: Plantae
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Order: Ericales

Common Nanmes: Strawberry tree, occasionally cane apple,Irish strawberry tree” or “Killarney strawberry tree”.

Habitat :Arbutus unedo is native to the Mediterranean region and western Europe north to western France and Ireland. Due to its presence in South West Ireland.

Description:
Arbutus unedo grows to 5–10 m tall, rarely up to 15 m, with a trunk diameter of up to 80 cm.

The leaves are dark green and glossy, 5–10 cm (2–4 in) long and 2–3 cm (0.8–1.2 in) broad, with a serrated margin.

The hermaphrodite flowers are white (rarely pale pink), bell-shaped, 4–6 mm diameter, produced panicles of 10–30 together in autumn. They are pollinated by bees.

Bloom Color: Pink, White. Main Bloom Time: Early fall, Early winter, Late fall, Late winter, Mid fall, Mid winter.  Form: Rounded.

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The fruit is a red berry, 1–2 cm diameter, with a rough surface, maturing 12 months at the same time as the next flowering. The fruit is edible, though many people find it bland and meally; the name ‘unedo’ is explained by Pliny the Elder as being derived from unum edo “I eat one”, which may seem an apt response to the flavour.

When eaten in quantities this fruit is said to be narcotic, and the wine made from it in Spain has the same property.
The tree is common in the Mediterranean region, and the fruit was known to the ancients, but according to Pliny (who gave the tree the name of Arbutus) was not held in much esteem, as the name implies (un ede=one 1 eat), the fruits being considered so unpalatable, that no one tasting them for the first time would be tempted to repeat the experiment. Nevertheless, there is some evidence that at one time the fruit was an article of diet with the ancients. Horace praises the tree for its shade and Ovid for its loads of ‘blushing fruit.’ Virgil recommends the young shoots as winter food for goats and for basket-work.

Gerard speaks of it in his time as growing in ‘some few gardens,’ and says, ‘the fruit being ripe is of a gallant red colour, in taste somewhat harsh, and in a manner without any relish, of which thrushes and blackbirds do feed in winter .’

In Spain, a sugar and spirit have been extracted from the fruit and a wine made from it in Corsica.

In the neighbourhood of Algiers it forms hedges, and in Greece and Spain the bark has been used for tanning. The wood of the tree makes good charcoal.
Cultivation:
Landscape Uses:Container, Espalier, Pest tolerant, Hedge, Standard, Specimen. Requires a nutrient-rich well-drained moisture-retentive soil in sun or semi-shade and shelter from cold drying winds, especially when youn. Grows well in heavy clay soils and in dry soils. Most species in this genus require a lime-free soil but this species is fairly lime tolerant. Succeeds in fairly exposed maritime positions[166, 200]. A tree in a very exposed position at Rosewarne in N. Cornwall was looking rather tattered in April 1987 but it was 4.5 metres tall and carrying a very good crop of immature fruit[K]. Tolerates industrial pollution. Plants have withstood temperatures down to -16°c without injury at Kew. They grow very well in S.W. England, fruiting well in Cornwall. Plants resent root disturbance and are best placed in their final positions whilst young. Give them some protection in their first winter. The strawberry tree flowers in November and December, the fruit takes 12 months to ripen and so the tree carries both mature fruit and flowers at the same time and is incredibly beautiful at this time. The flowers have a soft honey scent. There are a number of named varieties developed for their ornamental value. ‘Elfin King’, ‘Croomei’ and ‘Rubra’ are all small forms that fruit well when smal. The variety ‘Rubra’ was 1.2 metres tall at Kew in late 1990 and was laden down with fruits and flowers. ‘Elfin King’ only reaches a height of 1 metre, comes into bearing when young and fruits well. It is ideal for container culture. ‘Croomei’ is said to be a more reliable fruiting form. Special Features:Attracts birds, Not North American native, Attractive flowers or blooms.

Propagation:
Seed – best surface sown in a cold frame as soon as it is ripe. Stored seed should be soaked for 5 – 6 days in warm water and then surface sown in a shady position in a greenhouse. Do not allow the compost to become dry. 6 weeks cold stratification helps. The seed usually germinates well in 2 – 3 months at 20°c. Seedlings are prone to damp off, they are best transplanted to individual pots as soon as they are large enough to handle and should be kept well ventilated. Grow them on in a greenhouse for their first winter and then plant out in late spring after the last expected frosts. Basal cuttings in late winter. Cuttings of mature wood of the current season’s growth, November/December in a frame. Poor percentage. Layering of young wood – can take 2 years.
Edible Uses:
Fruit – raw or cooked. Sweet but insipid. The Latin name ‘unedo’ means ‘I eat one (only)’ and suggests that the fruit is not very palatable, though another report says that the fruit is so delicious that a person only needs to eat one. It does have a somewhat gritty skin, but the fruit itself has the texture of a lush tropical fruit and has a delicate pleasant flavour. For those people with sensitive taste buds, this is a fruit that can be enjoyed when eaten in moderate quantities. The fruit contains about 20% sugars and can be used to make delicious and nourishing jams and preserves. It is ripe in November/December and is about 15mm in diameter. When fully ripe it falls from the tree and so it is advisable to grow the plant in short grass in order to cushion the fall of the fruit.

Medicinal Uses:
Antiseptic;  Astringent;  Diuretic.

The strawberry tree is little used in herbalism, though it does deserve modern investigation. All parts of the plant contain ethyl gallate, a substance that possesses strong antibiotic activity against the Mycobacterium bacteria. The leaves, bark and root are astringent and diuretic. They are also a renal antiseptic and so are of use in the treatment of affections of the urinary system such as cystitis and urethritis. Their astringent action makes them of use in the treatment of diarrhoea and dysentery and, like many other astringent plants, a gargle can be made for treating sore and irritated throats. The leaves are gathered in the summer and dried for later use. The flowers are weakly diaphoretic.

Other Uses:

Tannin is obtained from the leaves, bark and fruit. The bark contains 45% tannin. Wood – used for turning, Greek flutes etc. It makes a good charcoal.
Arbutus unedo serves as a bee plant for honey production, and the fruits are food for birds. The fruits are also used to make jams, beverages, and liqueurs (such as the Portuguese medronho, a type of strong brandy).

The Garden of Earthly Delights, a painting by Hieronymus Bosch, was originally listed by José de Sigüenza, in the inventory of the Spanish Crown as La Pintura del Madroño – “The Painting of the Strawberry Tree“.

The tree makes up part of the Coat of arms of Madrid (El oso y el madroño, The Bear and the Strawberry Tree) of the city of Madrid, Spain. In the center of the city (Puerta del Sol) there is a statue of a bear eating the fruit of the Madroño tree. The image appears on city crests, taxi cabs, man-hole covers, and other city infrastructure. The fruit of the Madroño tree ferments on the tree if left to ripen, so some of the bears become drunk from eating the fruits.

 

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

Resources:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arbutus_unedo
http://www.botanical.com/botanical/mgmh/a/arbut053.html
http://www.pfaf.org/user/plant.aspx?latinname=Arbutus+unedo

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Alstonia scolaris

Botanical Name :Alstonia scolaris
Family: Apocynaceae
Tribe: Plumeriae
Subtribe: Alstoniinae
Genus: Alstonia
Species: A. scholaris
Kingdom: Plantae
Order: Gentianales

Synonyms: Echites scholaris L. Mant., Pala scholaris L. Roberty

Common Names :Blackboard tree, Indian devil tree,Saptaparni, Ditabark, Milkwood pine, White cheesewood and Pulai

Bengali name: Chhatim

Habitat : Alstonia scholaris is native to the following regions

*China: Guangxi (s.w.), Yunnan (s.)
*Indian subcontinent: India; Nepal; Sri Lanka; Pakistan
*Southeast Asia: Cambodia; Myanmar; Thailand; Vietnam, Indonesia; Malaysia; Papua New Guinea; Philippines
*Australia: Queensland

It has also been naturalised in several other tropical and subtropical climates. Alstonia scholaris (Saptaparni in Bengali) is declared as the State Tree of West Bengal, India

Description:
Alstonia scholaris is an evergreen small tree that grows up to 40 m tall and is glabrous. The bark is greyish; branchlets are copiously lenticellate.The upperside of the leaves are glossy, while the underside is greyish. Leaves occur in whorls of 3-10; petioles are 1–3 cm; the leathery leaves are narrowly obovate to very narrowly spathulate, base cuneate, apex usually rounded; lateral veins occur in 25-50 pairs, at 80-90° to midvein. Cymes are dense and pubescent; peduncle is 4–7 cm long. Pedicels are usually as long as or shorter than calyx. The corolla is white and tube-like, 6–10 mm; lobes are broadly ovate or broadly obovate, 2-4.5 mm, overlapping to the left. The ovaries are distinct and pubescent. The follicles are distinct and linear.

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Flowers bloom in the month October. The flowers are very fragrant similar to the flower of Cestrum nocturnum.

Seeds of A. scholaris are oblong, with ciliated margins, and ends with tufts of hairs 1.5–2 cm. The bark is almost odourless and very bitter, with abundant bitter and milky sap.

Medicinal Uses:
Alstonia or devil tree or Saptaparni is genus of evergreen trees or shrubs with white funnel-shaped flowers and milky sap. In India the bark of Alstonia scholaris is used solely for medicinal purposes, ranging from Malaria and epilepsy to skin conditions and asthma.

There are 43 species of alstonia trees.  The bark of the tree is used medicinally in the Pacific Rim and India.

In Ayurveda it is used as a bitter and as an astringent herb for treating skin disorders, malarial fever, urticaria, chronic dysentery, diarrhea, in snake bite and for upper purification process of Panchakarma . The Milky juice of the tree is applied to ulcers.

The bark contains the alkaloids ditamine, echitenine and echitamine and used to serve as an alternative to quinine. At one time, a decoction of the bark was used to treat diarrhoea and malaria, as a tonic, febrifuge, emmenagogue, anticholeric and vulnerary. A decoction of the leaves were used for beriberi. Ayurveda recommends A. scholaris for bowel complaints. In Sri Lanka its light wood is used for coffins. In Borneo the wood close to the root is very light and of white colour, and is used for net floats, household utensils, trenchers, corks, etc. Extracts prepared from the plant has been reported to possess cytotoxic activity. The active compounds include alkaloids, flavonoids etc. These are present in all parts of the plant. An ethanol extract of the bark of Alstonia scholaris enhanced the anticancer activity of berberine in the Ehrlich ascites carcinoma-bearing mice. This extract also showed cytotoxic activity to HeLa cells. It contains echitamine and loganin as major compounds and could potentially be used as an anti-irritation agent.

Scientific investigation has failed to show why it is of such service in malaria, but herbalists consider it superior to quinine and of great use in convalescence .  It lowers fever, relaxes spasms, stimulates lactation and expels intestinal worms.  Used for chronic diarrhea, dysentery and in intermittent fever; also as an anthelmintic. It is also much used by homoeopaths.

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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://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alstonia_scholaris
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_AB.htm

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Sweet Aroma

Researchers in Israel have found a way to genetically enhance the smell of flowers:…….CLICK & SEE

Plant biotechnologist Alexander Vainstein
The beautiful camellias in the vase really brighten up your room. How many times have you wondered why the room doesn’t smell with a fragrance that matches the camellias’ beauty? If a team of Israeli scientists have their way, however, they may soon leave you with no room to rue.

These researchers claim to have discovered a way to genetically boost the smell of flowers and even introduce scents in those that don’t have any.

The scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have been able to create transgenic petunias and carnations which smell like roses. They have also swapped smells between carnations and petunias, according to a research paper published in Plant Biotechnology Journal.

“We’ve found a way of enhancing the scent of a flower (Petunia hybrida) 10-fold and make it emit a scent during day and night — irrespective of the natural rhythm of scent production,” said Alexander Vainstein, the lead scientist at the University’s Institute of Plant Science and Genetics in Agriculture. In addition, they also have devised a way to boost the colour of flowers. The novel ‘biotechnolgical strategy’ to ‘activate scent and colour production’ in flowers could eventually be used to create tastier fruits and vegetables that have turned bland because of repeated cross-breeding and excessive use of pesticides.

“Smell plays an important role in our lives — it influences the way we choose fruit and vegetables, perfumes, and even a partner,” said Vainstein in a statement. “Aromas define not just fragrance but the taste of food, too.”

According to Vainstein, in Nature “flower colour and fragrance are the two main means adopted by plants to attract pollinators (such as bees and beetles), thereby ensuring reproductive success.”

The intensity of a flower’s scent largely depends on factors like the time of day, the plant’s age, crossbreeding and so on. “Many flowers have lost their scent owing to repeated breeding over the years. Recent technological developments — including ours — will help create flowers with an increased scent as well as produce novel scent components in the flowers.”

Such an innovation could not only help create new genetic variability for breeding purposes, but also offer the plant an advantage in survival and to evolve. In other words, the technique will make flowers more fragrant and draw more pollinating insects towards the plant, aiding better reproduction and survival. “The knowledge gained from an understanding of mechanisms leading to floral scent production or emission should provide us with a better insight into Nature’s way of ensuring evolutionary success, as well as with advanced tools for the metabolic engineering of fragrance,” said Vainstein.

However, such genetic engineering may not work as expected, believes Tapas Ghose, a botanist at Bose Institute, Calcutta. “It is difficult to predict whether pollinators will love the novel scent. It can attract pests too,” said Ghose. According to him it is too early to smell success with the genetically modified flower unless there is a prolonged field test along with definitive ecological studies.

Sources: The Telegraph (Kolkata, India)

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