Desmodium gangeticum | ‘Salparni’ | 25 seeds
Desmodium gangeticum is a useful undershrub species of the Fabaceae, which grows to more than a metre tall. It’s a widely-occurring plant native to large parts of Africa, Asia and Australasia and is consequently known by a number of traditional names, including ‘Anshumati’, ‘Dhruva’, ‘Dirghamoola’, ‘Pivari’, ‘Salpani’, ‘Shalaparni’, ‘Shalparni’ and ‘Tama-tsunagi’. It’s also traded commercially (in India) as ‘Sarivan’.
‘Salparni’ is a common feature of tropical and sub-tropical, dry forests, orchards, savannah and wasteland, thriving even in heavy clay soils. It does best in partial shade, on (alkaline) loam to clay loam soil in USDA Hardiness Zones 9-11.
Gangeticum has a short, herbaceous to woody stem which grows sub-erect and branches diffusely, reaching a maximum of approximately one-and-a-quarter metres in height. Its pointed, ovate leaves are mainly green yet are often mottled with grey, while its elongated blooms are coloured white-lilac-purple. These flowers are followed by beaded seed pods with hook-haired joints, ensuring wide dispersal of seeds by means of hooking on to any passing animals or humans. Flowering and fruiting occur twice a year, between May to June and again in September to October.
The whole plant is widely used in indigenous medicine as an analgesic, anti-inflammatory, aphrodisiac, antiseptic, astringent, diuretic, expectorant, febrifuge, haemorrhagic and sedative. Ailments requiring gangeticum treatment include asthma, bladder and kidney stones, coughs, diarrhoea, fever, headache, swellings, toothache and vomiting. Moreover, the species is also commercially useful as “green manure”, to make paper and as nitrogen-fixing, weed-controlling ground cover.
As with its well-known relative Desmodium gyrans, quite easy to raise from seed, Desmodium gangeticum usually germinates within one week to four months of 25°C temperature. Seeds remain viable for several years under normal conditions, but older seed may benefit from either scarification or soaking pre-treatment). Sow in a mix of equal amounts of manure, sand and soil and transplant to larger containers or the ground after a minimum of three months growing period. Mature plants may be further propagated via branch or root cuttings.
Another fascinating and economically important species to add to your garden – happy growing!
All the seed sold by Arkham’s Botanical was freshly and ethically sourced in 2018