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.