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Botanical Name : Sesbania grandiflora
Species: S. grandiflora
Synonyms: Aeschynomene grandiflora, Agati grandiflora
Common Names: Vegetable hummingbird, Agati or Hummingbird tree
Bengali Name: Bok ful
Sesbania grandiflora is a fast-growing tree. The leaves are regular and rounded and the flowers white or red. The fruits look like flat, long, thin green beans. The tree thrives under full exposure to sunshine and is extremely frost sensitive.
It is a small soft wooded tree up to 3–8 m tall. Leaves are 15–30 cm long, with leaflets in 10–20 pairs or more and an odd one. Flowers are oblong, 1.5–10 cm long in lax, 2–4 flower racemes. The calyx is campanulate and shallowly 2-lipped. Pods are slender, falcate or straight, and 30–45 cm long, with a thick suture and approximately 30 seeds 8 mm in size.
Propagated readily by seeding or cuttings, requiring little maintenance. It has been aerially seeded, apparently with success. For reforestation, Mendoza (1980) recommends spacing cuttings ca 1 m long at 4 x 4 m. The saplings could serve as a nurse crop for mahogany, Banquet pine, etc. Cuttings should be set out at the beginning of the rainy season. When grown as shade plant for coconut seedlings, agati is sown in India in June and July, putting 3–4 seed per hole in a narrow channel, 30 cm x 30 cm, ca 1 m from the coconut seedlings.
When cultivated for fodder, agati is usually cut when ca 1 m tall. Indonesian foresters, growing the species for fuelwood, harvest on a 5-year rotation. One hectare can yield three m3 of stacked fuelwood in a 2-year rotation. After the plant is harvested, shoots resprout with such vigor that they seem irrepressible. The tree’s outstanding quality is its rapid growth rate, particularly during its first 3 or 4 years (NAS, 1980a).
The flowers of Sesbania grandiflora are eaten as a vegetable in Southeast Asia, including Laos, Thailand, Java in Indonesia, Vietnam, and the Ilocos Region of the Philippines.
In the Thai language, the flowers are called Dok khae and are used in the cuisine both cooked in curries, such as kaeng som and kaeng khae, and raw in nam phrik.
The young pods are also eaten. In Sri Lanka, agati leaves, known as Katuru murunga in Sinhala language, are sometimes added to sudhu hodhi or white curry, a widely eaten, thin coconut gravy, and are believed locally. In India this plant is known as agati (Tamil), agastya (Kannada), agise (Telugu), and both the leaves and the flowers have culinary uses.
Per 100 g, the leaf is reported to contain 73.1 g H2O, 8.4 g protein, 1.4 g fat, 11.8 g NFE, 2.2 g fiber, 3.1 g ash, 1,130 mg Ca, 80 mg P, 3.9 mg Fe, 9,000 IU vit. A, 0.21 mg thiamine, 0.09 mg riboflavin, 1.2 mg niacin, and 169 mg ascorbic acid. Leaves contain (ZMB) per 100 g, 321 calories, 36.3 g protein, 7.5 g fat, 47.1 g carbohydrate, 9.2 g fiber, 9.2 g ash, 1684 mg Ca, 258 mg P, 21 mg Na, 2,005 mg K, 25,679 mg b-carotene equivalent, 1.00 mg thiamine, 1.04 mg riboflavin, 9.17 mg niacin and 242 mg ascorbic acid. The flowers (ZMB) contain per 100 g, 345 calories, 14.5 g protein, 3.6 g fat, 77.3 g carbohydrate, 10.9 g fiber, 4.5 g ash, 145 mg Ca, 290 mg P, 5.4 mg Fe, 291 mg Na, 1,400 mg K, 636 mg b-carotene equivalent, 0.91 mg thiamine, 0.72 mg riboflavin, 14.54 mg niacin, and 473 mg ascorbic acid. Seeds (ZMB) contain 36.5% CP, 7.4% fat, 51.6% total carbohydrate, and 4.5% ash. The seed oil contains 12.3% palmitic, 5.2% stearic, 26.2% oleic, and 53.4% linoleic acids. The seed testa, which constitutes 20% of the seed, contains 5.2% moisture, 1.3% ash, 0.8% fat, 2.7% CF, 0.1% free reducing sugars, 1.4% sucrose, 2.8% nitrogen, 6.3% pentosans, and 65.4% carbohydrates. Yields of 33% galactomannans are reported for alkali extraction of the testae. Seeds allowed to germinate (sprouts) for 120 hours increased vit. C content from 17–166 mg/100 g. Extracellular invertase of Rhizobia japonicum and its role in free sugar metabolism in the developing root nodules was studied. The enzyme hydrolyzed sucrose extracellularly, and its release was substrate inducible. 0.1 m b-mercaptoethanol released the cell-bound form of this enzyme. The production of invertase was low when glucose, galactose, mannose, fructose, and farrinose were used as carbon sources in the growth medium. In the developing nodules sucrose was the major sugar. The content of fructose was low in comparison with that of glucose, suggesting that in the nodules the fructose is converted to glucose prior to its entry into the bacterial cell. The content of glucose synchronized with the pattern of change in the activity of invertase in the nodules (Singh et al, 1980).
The leaf extract may inhibit the formation of advanced glycation end-products. The leaf extract contains linolenic acid and aspartic acid, which were found to be the major compounds responsible for the anti-glycation potential of the leaf extract.
The flowers and the pods are eaten to to cure canker sores.
Resorted to be aperient, diuretic, emetic, emmenagogue, febrifuge, laxative, and tonic, agati is a folk remedy for bruises, catarrh, dysentery, eyes, fevers, headaches, smallpox, sores, sorethroat, and stomatitis (Duke and Wain, 1981). Bark, leaves, gums, and flowers are considered medicinal. The astringent bark was used in treating smallpox and other eruptive fevers. The juice from the flowers is used to treat headache, head congestion, or stuffy nose. As a snuff, the juice is supposed to clear the nasal sinuses. Leaves are poulticed onto bruises. Rheumatic swellings are poulticed or rubbed with aqueous decoctions of the powdered roots of the red-flowered variant. In India the flowers are sacred to Siva, representing both the male and female sex organs; still I find no mention of their use as aphrodisiacs. Ayurvedics, believing the fruits to be alexeteric, laxative, and intellectually stimulating, prescribe them for anemia, bronchitis, fever, pain, thirst, and tumors; the flowers, apertif and refrigerant, for biliousness, bronchitis, gout, nyctalopia, ozoena, and quartan fever; the root for inflammation, the bark as astringent; leaves, alexeteric, anthelmintic, for epilepsy, gout, itch, leprosy, nyctalopia, and ophthalmia. Yunani consider the tonic leaves useful in biliousness, fever, and nyctalopia. Indians apply the roots in rheumatism, the juice of the leaves and flowers for headache and nasal catarrh. Mixed with stramonium and pasted, the root is poulticed onto painful swellings. In Amboina, flower juice is squeezed into the eye to correct dim vision. The bark is used in infusions for smallpox. Cambodians consider the flowers emollient and laxative, the bark for diarrhea, dysentery, and paludism. Malayans apply crushed leaves to sprains and contusions. They gargle with the leaf juice to cleanse the mouth and throat. In small doses, the bark is used for dysentery and sprue, in large doses, laxative, in still larger doses, emetic. Pounded bark is applied to scabies. Philippines use the pounded bark for hemoptysis. The powdered bark is also recommended for ulcers of the mouth and alimentary canal. In Java, the bark is used for thrush and infantile disorders of the stomach. Leaves are chewed to disinfect the mouth and throat.
The inner bark of Sesbania grandiflora can serve as fiber and the white, soft wood not too durable, can be used for cork. The wood is used, like bamboo, in Asian construction. The tree is grown as an ornamental shade tree, and for reforestation. In Java, the tree is extensively used as a pulp source. A gum resembling kino (called katurai), fresh when red, nearly black after exposure, exudes from wounds. This astringent gum is partially soluble in water and in alcohol, but applied to fishing cord, it makes it more durable. Pepper vines (Piper nigrum) are sometimes grown on and in the shade of the agati. According to NAS (1980a), this small tree produces firewood, forage, pulp and paper, food, and green manure and appears to hold promise for reforesting eroded and grassy wastelands throughout the tropics. It combines well with agriculture (agroforestry) in areas where trees are not normally grown and becomes an important fuelwood source. Dried and powdered bark is used as a cosmetic in Java. Allen and Allen enumerated three undesirable features (1) short lived (2) shallow-rooted and subject to wind throw, and (3) prolific seeder, the pods often considered a litter. An aqueous extract of bark is said to be toxic to cockroaches.
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