Saturday, 26 June 2010

Damsel of the Streets

Any patch of waste ground in the Mata atlantica region of Brazil is likely to contain small shrubs with pretty yellow flowers. They flourish on roadsides and patches of bare earth, and even pasture anywhere where there is little competition to shade them. This is Sida rhombifolia, the Arrowleaf sida, or Vassoura.

Sida is a pretty thing, but tough. The stem is so tough and fibrous it can be used as a brush (hence "vassoura", Portuguese for brush), or twisted into a twine to make string. This can be a problem when growing in pasture.

Sida also has a nasty bite, the whole plants is stuffed full of toxins. Of course one man's poison is another´s tonic, the roots and leaves have traditionally been used as fever and heart medicines. It has even been used as an aphrodisiac, though given that the stems and roots are diuretics and purgative this is perhaps unwise.
Better maybe to leave Sida where she is, providing a natural beauty to ugly and abandoned areas.


Sarah Stephen said...

I am very happy to read about good ol' Sida rhombifolia, which used to be very abundant here as well (although, admittedly, I haven't noticed one lately). Do you know if it is a Brazil native?

David said...

It is supposedly a native of the New World, though these days it has spread around a bit more. It´s certainly quite common in Brazil.

Ruth Stephen said...

Interesting post. The wooded grounds of my old primary school had lots of this plant. I kept away from it, having been warned by my Dad that it was dangerous. I doubt whether there are any plants left at that area, as there is hardly the space to stick a pin, with the grounds having made way for concrete buildings.

Tercio said...

Nice post. Here in Brazil, we call this specie "vassoura" like the post say, but in some places the people call this plant "reloginho" (means something like little clock) because it blossoms around 12:00 PM.

But the name of the specie is Turnera ulmifolia (Thurneraceae), not Sida (a genus inside Malvacea). The origin of this specie is Mexico, but is largely spread across all Americas)

Sorry about my poor english *shame*