The other day when I saw the creeper for the first time I could not believe my eyes… Wow…growing in Kuwait in all its tropical glory? There she was swaying happily, head held high, beaming with flowers and bees buzzing around. Nostalgic memories of childhood flooded back, elevating my mood for the day. Back home we called it Beli-poo (hedge or fence flower) because that’s what we used it for. This pretty mildly fragrant (woody smell) with pretty long soft flexible tubular stem helped us to make garland or braid without thread. So we braided it together as crown, & played king & queen games. It’s hard to pinpoint the colour of the flower. Even though the bud often looks reddish, when the flower blooms in the evening it is white (almost) with very light subtle tinges of pink that gradually turns pink in the morning. It then graduates to a reddish pink by evening & stays the same till it dries. So we could be white or red or pink or colourful royalities!! It blooms from February to May & again from August to November. The creeper bears flowers every day during the season & the mature flowers stays for few days. So in the bargain it creates an unusually spectacular sight of three generations swaying together. The drooping bunch with rare tri-colour flowers at the same time is a sight to cherish. Bees & butterflies are attracted to these flowers.
Native to tropical Asia, this ligneous creeper called Quisqualis Indica/Combretum indicum, Madhu Malati in Sanskrit,Akash Mallige in Kannada (akash meanins sky), Radha Manoharam in Telugu (sounds so very romantic), Chinese honeysuckle, Rangoon creeper, is a sturdy, vigorously growing, profusely flowering, perennial climber that practically does not need any maintenance. (Quisqualis in Latin means who or what!!). The leaves are elliptical with an acuminate tip & a rounded base. It supposed to bear ellipsoidal fruit with five prominent wings which tastes like almonds when mature. However, I don’t really remember seeing fruits though!! In a mature creeper, the stem becomes woody & thorns appear. Once established, it is the boss, sky seems to be the limit for Akash Mallige’s growth & with proper sunlight & enough water, it flowers profusely in big bunches of 15-30 flowers. (Can there be a better proof than its growth in Kuwait??). In between the season, the creeper sheds most of its leaves as if sad for not having flowers. Then starts to spring back with reddish leaves as if it is beaming in preparation for the motherhood!! Fast catching up as an ornamental creeper, you can train the creeper as you like & it can be grown in the pot too…
This Royal beauty has medicinal value too. I have heard that: decoctions of the root, seed or fruit can be used as antihelmintic to expel parasitic worms such as roundworm & pinworm or for alleviating diarrhea. It is said to be toxic to the parasite & kills it in the digestive tract. Fruit decoction can also be used for gargling & are also used to combat nephritis (inflammation of kidneys). Leaves are used to relieve pain caused by fever. The roots are used to treat rheumatism.
It is said that ”A thing of beauty is a joy forever!” No picture can do justice to a thing of beauty, as we see it in all its glory… nor does a picture satisfy the longing for seeing it for real. In my enchanted state, I have made humble attempts to capture the lovely sight as best as I can….. hope they please your eyes as they did mine!