Root awakening: South African Leaf, Sabah Snake Grass cures are anecdotal

Vernonia amygdalina.
Vernonia amygdalina. PHOTO: LAWRENCE LIEW
Sabah Snake Grass.
Sabah Snake Grass. PHOTO: LAWRENCE LIEW
Sweet potato vine with pretty leaves.
Sweet potato vine with pretty leaves. PHOTO: WILSON WONG
Remove top soil layer to eradicate pennywort.
Remove top soil layer to eradicate pennywort. PHOTO: RACHEL TAN
Plants are Chinese Croton and Giant False Agave.
Plants are Chinese Croton and Giant False Agave. PHOTO: LENA LIEW
SkyFruit a common tree species in Singapore.
SkyFruit a common tree species in Singapore. PHOTO: JENNIFER LEE

South African Leaf, Sabah Snake Grass cures are anecdotal

What are these plants? Is it true that eating these leaves raw helps our bodies detoxify and prevents cancer?

Lawrence Liew

There are two medicinal plants here: Vernonia amygdalina, which is commonly called South African Leaf; and Sabah Snake Grass, which is botanically known as Clinacanthus nutans.

These plants are said to have a few folkloric cures and the success stories are at best anecdotal.

None of the treatments has been clinically tested so one should proceed with caution. Consult doctors before using these plants to treat any kind of ailment.


Tip: Sweet potato vine with pretty leaves

Ipomoea batatas "Pink Frost" is an ornamental sweet potato vine that is grown for its highly attractive leaves. Each leaf of this cultivar has splashes of three colours: white, pink and green. It has similar growth requirements as the common and edible sweet potato plant - it prefers a sunny location with fertile, moist and well-draining soil to thrive.

This cultivar is highly suitable for an edible plant garden, where it can be used to add a splash of colour. New plants can be propagated easily from stem-cuttings.


Remove top soil layer to eradicate pennywort

My garden has been invaded by a sea of pennywort. How do I get rid of them and prevent them from returning?

Rachel Tan

It is best to remove the top 20cm of the soil. The pennywort has stems that run all over the place and are hidden beneath the soil. Removing them by hand will not be thorough and is labour-intensive.

Using chemicals is not recommended as it will also affect the lawn grass. Take this opportunity to renovate the lawn too.


Plants are Chinese Croton and Giant False Agave

What are these plants?

Lena Liew

The plant on the left is Excoecaria cochinchinensis and it is commonly called Chinese Croton. There is a variegated variety with splashes of white on its leaves with a cultivar name of Firestorm.

The plant on the right is Furcraea foetida "Striata". It is commonly known as the Giant False Agave.

To learn more about plants grown in Singapore, get a copy of 1001 Garden Plants In Singapore, which is published by the National Parks Board, and Plants In Tropical Cities by Boo Chih Min, Sharon Chew and Jean Yong. Both books are available at major bookstores.


Sky Fruit a common tree species in Singapore

What is this fruit? It grows on a tree outside my flat.

Jennifer Lee

The tree that produces this fruit is botanically known as Swietenia macrophylla. It has common names such as West Indian Mahogany and Big-leaf Mahogany. Singaporeans call it Sky Fruit as the fruit point upwards.

The plant is a common tree species that is grown along streets, parks and gardens in Singapore. The seeds are believed to have medicinal properties and are used to treat diabetes and high blood pressure.

•Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore (www.greenculturesg.com). He is also an NParks-certified park manager. He will speak about growing succulents, starting a miniature garden and more at the Singapore Garden Festival this month. General admission to the festival applies (go to www.singaporegardenfestival.com).

•Have a gardening query? E-mail it with clear, high-resolution pictures of at least 1MB, if any, and your full name to stlife@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 09, 2016, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Print Edition | Subscribe