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What names in regional languages tell us about plants

It is interesting to know that the local names given to the plants are, most often, homonyms (words that have same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings) in nature.

Published: 19th June 2019 06:25 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th June 2019 06:25 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU: Regional names given to plants play vital role in not only distinguishing one species from another but also to help one understand its uniqueness in morphology, distinct functions, if any, size, habit, habitat, colour, smell, taste and so on. Regional names given to plants by the local community exhibit a broad spectrum of information, which in turn reflects the depth of their understanding on plants.

It is interesting to know that the local names given to the plants are, most often, homonyms (words that have same spelling and pronunciation but different meanings) in nature. One such name given to a plant in Tamil language is ‘Kattu kodi’, where in Kattu means tie and Kodi means twiner. The immediate inference would be the twiner can be used to tie any materials as it is used as such. Usually, this strong, fibrous twiner is used to tie fuel sticks for easy transport.

Another meaning of the name is ‘tying twiner’ given on its incredible property of solidifying/crystalising water. Yes, the leaf juice when it as added to the water makes the water form semi-solid state/gel (this gel is sliced and eaten with sugar as heart-tonic). One more meaning of this name is the ultimate,  explains its curative property, ‘twiner that ties sperms’ as this twiner is extensively used against oligospermia caused by overflow leakage of semen or seminal incontinence. The leaf juice is orally administered to check the spermatogenesis. Thus the single name deciphers three distinct meanings!

The scientific name of the kattu kodi is Cocculus hirsutus (L.) W. Theob. belonging to the family Menispermaceae. It is an extensive twiner, with stems that are densely hairy. Its leaves are 3-6 cm long and 2-4 cm broad, ovate, yellowish-tomentose and palmately three-nerved. Its inflorescences are branched racemes/panicles, borne on the axils, 4-7 cm long, whereas its flowers are 4 mm across and greenish. Its fruits are drupes that are 6 mm across, bluish to dark purple and laterally compressed, with seeds that are horse-shoe shaped.

It is found to grow in tropical thorn and deciduous forests and along wayside thickets, throughout the tropical parts of India.

Name game
Regional names given to plants by the local community exhibit a broad spectrum of information, which, in turn, reflects the depth of their understanding on plants.

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