A green offense-defense
Plants are often bunched up as green leafy ‘thingies’ and not really considered as smart or formidable as animals. By humans, that is. But once you start looking around, one can realize why the word ‘jungle’ is so apt for the plant kingdom! There are all sorts of defense, offense being mounted in that one quest for survival – thrive, propagate and reproduce. One such observation was of this hairy shrubby plant with huge leaves! Given the hairy nature, I suspected it may not be browsed upon easily, but come scarcity, and the local domestic cows and goats did not let this plant continue with its photosynthetic process, with much success! 🙂 As I was mulling whether to give it a ring guard, I found it resilient enough to grow back leaves and so waited to see what unfolds. Soon enough, beautiful pink tubular flowers appeared and the plant was on its way to the next stage of its life.
So far the plant looked innocuous enough but strong in its ability to grow back. And then the young fruits appeared. Sheathed in green they were also furry and spongy. Until it started to dry and split open the sheath to reveal the ripe fruit. The various common names given to this plant, became sorta obvious now! Devil’s claw, cat’s claw, tiger’s claw! 🙂 To say that the end of the fruit curved into a sharp spine is an understatement. It was as sharp as it gets, in a plant, without metal! This really got me hooked (get the pun, eh? :)) and I looked for more information about this plant. Known as Martynia annua this is the only species (monotypic genus) of the Martyniaceae family and apparently native to Mexico and central America, but introduced and naturalised in other tropics such as India. The spines help the fruit hitch a ride with mammals that help disperse them. And trust me, one would not want to mess with the fruits and so the defense to stay safe works out, admirably! Interestingly enough, it finds place in Ayurveda and Siddha medicine, despite its non-native status!
And so it was a lesson in plant smartness for me! Watch this space for more jungle lore – stories of the tropical flora, in the tropics and how they do justice to the ‘jungle’ they are a part of! What is your ‘jungle’ story? 🙂