Friday, November 20, 2009

A gram of blue, please

One of the tiniest butterflies in my garden goes by the very odd name Gram Blue. When I first read it, I thought, "gram? A gram of what?
I kept linking it to the weight measure until I realised that it probably referred to its favoured host plants , beans and members of the lentil family. In other words, grams.

They are flibberty-gibbets (I even feel like one ofthose nuns from 'Sound of Music' when saying that) of the first order. Rarely ever still and never allowing one to creep up on them. The slightest movement and they're off again, dancing over the flowers.
For some reason though, they seem to be very partial to these Brazilian Button Flowers (Centratherum intermedium). So that's where I park myself when I want to see them sit still.

But where does the Blue in its name come in? Take a look ...

I've hardly ever seen it with its wings flat open, except for a quick flash once in a while. Open and shut before I even have time to press the button on my camera. But its such a beautifully vivid blue, isn't it?

I'm guessing that those two eye-like markings on its hind wing have helped it escape from many a predator. The funniest thing is that this one below kept rubbing its hind wings together so that it looked exactly as if those eyes were looking around.

I read that these 'eyes' along with the thin tail (yes, they have a tail on the wing. See the first photo) fool predators into thinking that that is the head. So even if a nasty latches on to the hindwing thinking that's the head, the Gram Blue can break off easily and escape. Smart!
By the way, this guy looks like a real survivor, doesn't he?

The Gram Blue is not exactly a welcome butterfly, especially when I'm struggling to grow some beans. A handful of caterpillars can soon make sure that all my effort is for nothing. And I wouldn't even know it is there because it usually hides inside the pods while feasting! So no Favoured Visitor tag for this guy.
But if I could see that flash of blue more often, I think I could definitely reconsider.

Friday, November 6, 2009

What a potent surprise!

You know how sometimes you suddenly come across something which knocks you off your feet and leaves your jaw scraping the floor? I had one of those moments recently when I was idly browsing through Flickr.
I finally found an ID for a wild plant with pretty little white flowers which shows up in my garden every monsoon. I had very fancifully named it Peace Bells in my mind since I had no idea what it was.
Peace Bells? Ha! nothing peaceful about these little plants.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is Safed Musli, valued as one of the most potent aphrodisiacs from the plant world.

Now do you see why I'm feeling a little dazed? It's almost like finding out that the nice, sweet little girl that you went to school with is now a centrefold model in the more volatile type of magazines!

With the ID I found, I kept searching for more information until I realised that more than one plant from the genus Chlorophytum is commonly referred to and used as safed musli since they all share the same medicinal properties. And my Chlorophytum breviscapum is one of them.
Yes, the same family as our humble Spider Plant but, no, Chlorophytum comosum is not in that elite list.

It is a ground-hugging plant which appears all over my garden after the first rain of the monsoon season. Very soon it sends out stalks of pretty little white flowers . Even its seed-pods are eye-catching! I find their unusual tri-coned shape fascinating.

Did I mention that its white tuberous roots have aphrodisiacal properties according to Ayurvedic medicine? Apparently that's not all that it has. I read that it is supposed to be anti-ageing too. And great for building up immunity levels.

And the funniest, most ironical part of all? Years ago, while talking idly of the commercial possibilities of my gardening hobby, I was advised to grow safed musli as that was considered the most profitable crop to grow.
And I just laughed it off.
After all, I had no idea how to grow it or even where on earth I would get the planting material!