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!


  1. Oh Sunita, it is a gold mine you have there! Now the burning question is, are you going to try it out yourself? Or on a loved one? The seed pods are beautiful, as is the flower. Do you ingest the root, or make tea, or what? Inquiring minds want to know. :-)

  2. Oh my that is a potent surprise. The seedpod looks a little like a blackberry lily seedpod. The flower is sweet. gail

  3. Sunita girl ! That is truly one sweet little plant .. I think we appreciate life's ironies even more because we are gardeners ?
    Who ever knows the full extent of what our passion can do for us ?
    Joy : )

  4. This background of this plant is very ironic indeed Sunita. I love your comparison to the schoolgirl turned centerfold. Looks like you didn't have to do a thing to encourage this pretty little bloomer in your garden. ;)

  5. Missed your posts Sunita! Glad to get a new one. Isn't it funny how we stumble into information about things and find out they have a little different connotation than we thought of!

  6. What a beautiful plant, and terrific story. I don't think your little centrefold is all that naughty. Great post! :)

  7. Ja, dann pflanz mal an, vielleicht wird es ja noch ein großes Geschäft, lach.
    Schöne Fotos und Deine Geschichten sind immer so lustig.

    liebe Grüße Dörte

    Award: bitte mach es so, wie Du es für richtig befindest.

  8. Is it just me or do those seed pods look like tiny little hearts?Does the beautiful white flower have an exotic fragrance? It's nice that your "Peace Plant" didn't turn out to be something poisonous. Make love not war I always say!

  9. I like how the seed pods open and then dry, too. All in all, a very satisfactory plant for most of the senses. I don't know if it has a scent...does it? That would make it just perfect.

  10. Frances, I don't know about the gold mine ... I'm great at spending money but not so good at making it. And now that I've found out what this little plant is, what do you think are the odds that from next monsoon it'll stop showing up in my garden?
    From what I read on a site you have to boil 15 grams of the root in 1 cup of milk and have it twice a day. It is also had as a powder or juice. All this is information I got from various sites, I must try and find out from an authentic Ayurvedic doctor.
    As for trying it out, hmmm, the mind boggles! If you find my blog un-updated for months at a stretch, you'll know... ;D

  11. Gail, I had to do a search to see what a blackberry lily (what an intriguing name!)and its seedpod looks like. And I found that its hardy in zone 10 so it should grow for me too. I must try and get one for myself. See where blogging gets you! ;)
    You're right the seedpods do look similar

  12. Joy, you're so very right! Absolutely no one knows more about life's little ironies than a gardener! As for what our passions lead us to do, I for one am very glad that it led me to world of blogging. Imagine! I have so many friends all over the world just because of that one little passion :)

    Racquel, these plants are indigenous. So all I need to do is thank the Great Chief Gardener up there that I have these pretty plants growing for me even if I dont do a thing for them.

    Phew! You said it, Mridula!

    Absolutely, Lisa! And the worst part was that I couldnt even tell my kids just what I was getting so excited about!
    Sorry about the posts but I've been suffering from writer's block recently. Or maybe my new discovery just threw me a bit more than I realised.

  13. Yes, that's one very sweet, innocent-looking model, isn't it Rebecca? Who would've thought it had such great secrets up its sleeve ... er, roots?

    Dorte, I've heard it's still one of the most profitable agri-businesses. Maybe I'll even get around to growing them commercially some day. I'd love to prove to my husband that I can make money too ;)
    About the award, I havent forgotten. Sorry its taking so long.

    Becky, but of course, now that you mention it they do look like tiny little hearts. How very observant of you!
    You know, I cant remember whether these flowers are fragrant or not. How dumb of me ... I really must do something about this memory of mine!
    And yes, its a good thing it isnt poisonous!

    Stephanie, I love the look of the dried seed pods too. Almost like brown flowers themselves. I really must find out about the scent ... I think it is but I really dont remember. Something to find out the next time the monsoon season comes around.

  14. I felt this way when I found the name of a bird that frequented my neighbourhood :)
    Flickr can be a treasure house of information, and what a fascinating story of a sweet little girl turning out to be a ...err ;)

    Now I am going to be looking for these beautiful flowers everywhere !

  15. IHM, every other day I thank Google and Blogger for being there for me. Now Flickr is going to be added to that list too.
    You may have to wait till the next monsoon to see these plants growing in the wild. They're quite short-lived. Or rather, after about 3-4 months the leaves dry up and you'd never know such a plant existed there until the next rains.

  16. Hi Sunita~~ Ooh, the irony of it! I wonder if the bees get...friendly after sipping the nectar.

  17. They got the wrong plant part, I think, Grace. Apparently it's the roots that have all the power here. But I have been seeing many more bees than ever before, so you never know...

  18. Look after tha plant, Sunita.
    Thanks for the knowlegde.

  19. Sunita, When the natural rubber prices crashed sometime ago we were advised to convert a part of the rubber plantations to safed musli cultivations. The exorbitant price and unavailability of sufficient planting material, which is the root / tuber of the plant itself, dissuaded us from doing so. We were made to understand that as an aphrodisiac the market was assured.

    I find that many of your readers are interested to test Safed musli. It is available in medical shops as an over the counter ayurvedic concoction ‘Musli power extra’. As for the result don’t ask me. :D

  20. You bet I will, Amila. Actually, I've never needed to look after it... it rains and the plant shows up. Now if I actively start taking care of it, who knows, I may even end up killing off the lot! :P

    That figures, Nebu! But I wonder why the planting material is so highly priced if the plant is so commonly available during the monsoons. Or is it expensive only when the tubers are used for planting? I found mention of the seeds being used in a couple of sites that I visited.

  21. Sunita,
    What a great surprise. A pretty little flower and I find the seed pods are intriguing too.

    Always nice to discover an ID but with this one you've found a treasure you might be able to cash-in on too.
    Meems @ Hoe and Shovel

  22. Wow! What a nice surprise! And I love your analogy between the sweet, little girl next door and Safed Musli. With that, I can feel how you feel :D

    Thanks for the sharing! Good knowledge.

  23. Meems, I sometimes use stalks of these dried seedpods in my floral arrangements. They're really unusual, aren't they?
    Not knowing the name of this plant was gnawing at me for quite some time. Isn't the internet amazing!

  24. Hi Sandy! Yeah, I suppose you can guess just how gobsmacked I felt, cant you? :D

  25. Hi Sunta,
    What is the mood in the camp after India's dismal performance in the ODI series? How will they view today's clash at Mumbai? Will the troops go out to watch the match? What will be your role in this whole thing?

  26. Oh, the shame of it! Amila, that one match where Sachin performed so well was truly bitter-sweet. I think they should come with some statutory warning attached : watching this match is injurious to health!
    I doubt whether there will be a match today because we seem to be rained under with a cyclone alert looming over us. My role? I think that would be to occupy the computer while the men take over the TV :)

  27. Very amusing post, Sunita. I first came across safed musli when I was looking up chlorophytum for a post I did a while ago ( and I was astonished that something related to a plant that is so common and so easy we almost despise it could have such properties.
    By the way, I see there's a big storm heading your way. Stay safe!

  28. I had also heard of safed musli and its interesting properties; thanks to you I also know what it looks like.
    Now I know that if I don't find your blog updated for some time, you have hit a Goldmine;-)

  29. Astonishment was exactly the word for what I felt too, Victoria. I read the part of the Id, Chlorophytum, and went 'heyyy! wait a minute ....!"
    The storm turned out to be a fizzle of a drizzle. Still, it was lovely to get some rain and cooler weather for a change.

    GT, I keep reading that its supposed to be great for diabetes and arthritis too. Any idea how true it is? I really must find an Ayurvedic practitioner, I'm a bit wary of believing everything I read on the Net.
    Yeah, I think an unupdated blog for a couple of months would definitely be a good sign-post ;D

  30. Sunita, I am very excited about your latest discovery too. How wonderful the experience must have been for you. Such an innocent looking plant but with so much potential. Wow!

  31. Autumn Belle, I wonder whether you have this plant in your part of the world too?
    You're absolutely right though, I was totally amazed by this discovery!

  32. ur posts are always so informative. kudos to u for coming up with something so interesting yet again!

  33. Thanks Sandeep :)
    It was quite a big knock-me-down surprise for me and I just had to share it here.


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