RAIPUR: With the COVID-19 pandemic having gripped the world with fear, the people usually respond to the image of coronavirus with alarm and much misgiving. But coronavirus-lookalike flowers blooming in valleys of the conflict zone of Bastar relate a different tale as they are believed to carry significance in the life of the tribals in south Chhattisgarh.
The people who never saw such flowers might momentarily turn unease witnessing it the first time. Interestingly, the flower which recalls to one’s mind a living image of COVID-19, belong to the Melastomes family. The species mostly grows in a moist and humus-rich soil.
The botanists in Raipur said the ironwood plant found in Sri Lanka, which is referred to as blue mist, has almost similar flowers found in Bastar.
According to the botalists, this flower is grown in a small evergreen tree native to the Matnar valley of Chitrakot in Bastar. This sub-canopy tree is also known to be found in the Deccan plateau region.
“The local tribals identify Aali flower as ‘Alli’. It belongs to Melastomes family and the botanical name is Memecylon edule. In this part of India it's mostly known by the name Aali though in Sri Lanka it is popular as ironwood”, stated Dr M L Nayak, an expert specialised in plant life.
Some unverified traditional knowledge with therapeutic effects have been ascribed to Memecylon edule. “The extract of Aali leaves are reported to be carrying the remedy as anti-diarrheal and the fruit juice of this plant to cure digestive problems among the local inhabitants of Bastar. Some use the frayed end of this small plant’s twig for cleaning/brushing the teeth. Its bark used locally to treat the bruises”, said Dr Manohar Sagar, an Ayurveda practitioner.
Yellow and crimson dye are extracted from the leaves and flowers and used for dyeing cottons. Glucoside, a yellow dye, are known to be used for several decades for dyeing the robes of Buddhist monks and for colouring woven mats. The light brown wood of the plant also makes good charcoal.