Plant of the Month 5
Arabic name: Aden, Adanah, Seyfid
Common name: Desert Rose, Sabi Star
Family name: Apocynaceae
Found: The Sahel region of Africa and Southern Arabia
Photo Credits: Jan Vandorpe (flickr.com) and Sarr Cat and Suvabratadhar (Wikipedia)
Adenium obesum are succulent shrubs with irregular shapes. Their fleshy and heavy trunks may be buried half or entirely in the soil, preferrably in a plant container where excess water could be flushed out. They grow slowly to 1-6 metres in height with large caudexes. The large basal caudex is actually part of the exposed root system which makes this plant special and alluring. Twisted branches are sparsely covered with obovate, shiny leaves that are up to 8 cm long. They are semi-evergreen and retained in warm conditions, but can lose leaves when forced into a long winter dormancy in cooler climate. It is also embellished with stellar flowers that usually have petals with red linings to pink that leads to blush-colored core. New growth begins early in spring. Outdoors, it thrives on a xeric watering regime as required by cacti. Under ideal conditions, it can live for hundreds of years.
Bright filtered light is best but in areas where light is not as burning, plants may be kept outdoors in full sun unprotected but remember that caudex is very susceptible to sun scalding. Plant becomes leggy in the shade and its flowering reduced.
Watering can be done as they become drier during active growth season, but not as often during winter since their trunks are known to store water in its bulbous roots and fat trunk. Never allow plants to dry out too often as this causes them to go into early dormancy.
Desert rose is an important plant in traditional African medicine. Research has shown the presence of some 30 cardiotoxic glycosides, which in low dosage, is used to treat congestive heart failure (CHF) and heart rhythm problems (atrial arrhythmias), but in high dosage it leads to systolic heart failure and death. Extracts from the root have shown an “anti-toxic cells” effect against several carcinoma cell lines. The aqueous stem bark extract is a potential acaricide as it shows high toxicity on all stages of development of the ticks and mites. The Adenium obesum flowers’ sap are moderately applied to cure the sores and boils. A paste made from its mashed young stem is applied to heal the crack of the foot’s sole. It is also used to relieve pain and swelling in the legs by mixing the pounded Adenium obesum rod into warm water with salt.
In Somalia, a decoction from the roots is used as nose drops prescribed for rhinitis. In the Sahel, roots or bark extract is used as a bath or lotion to treat skin diseases and to kill lice. Powdered stems are applied to kill skin parasites of camels and cattle while the latex is rubbed on the head against lice, as commonly practiced in northern Kenya.
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