Like some gods and goddesses, the flower shown in the photo has several names - Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae), jungle flame, burning love, jungle geranium, flame of the woods, flame of the forest, scarlet jungle flame, faja lobi, rugmini, vedchi , rangan, chethi. Select any you like. I would opt for chethi because it always reminds me, like most Malayalees, of the perennial favorite song ‘Chethi, mandaram, tulasi…” But I’ll stick to the botanical name, Ixora for this post.
In some countries Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae) is associated with valor. It is said that ancient Tamil literature mentions about soldiers wearing the flowers and leaves of this plant around their necks while going into battle. Ixora flowers are also a symbol of increased sexuality and passion. There is a religious angle as well to this plant. It is often a part of the prasadam (remnants of the offering to God) the temple priests give the devotees after a requested pooja (prayer ritual) to indicate that the deity is satisfied.
The 400 odd species of Ixora coccinea (Rubiaceae) grow mainly in
India, Sri Lanka, South East Asia and Africa. It belongs to the coffee family. The leaves and flowers differ in size from one variety to another. The plant blooms throughout the year and most of the types are easy to grow. Propagation of Ixora is done mostly through cuttings. They are good as garden plants, for hedges and the small type as potted indoor plants. Ixora is said to be good for bonsai too.
Ixora flowers come in several colors and shades. Red ones are commonly found. Then there are different shades of pink, flame orange and so on. The yellow flowers are equally beautiful. White ones are supposed to be a good kani (first sight in the morning). But unlike the other varieties of Ixora the white one appear to be more difficult to grow. At home we have different shades, but not white.
Ancient systems of medicine like Siddha claim that almost all parts of Ixora have curative and/or prophylactic properties. Some of the modern research seems to confirm this. But I don’t know whether any approved medicines based on Ixora are available in the market.
If you have a garden, add this plant. Or try the indoor version, or bonsai.
Photos: AK Kepler. Copyright free.
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