Root Awakening

(From left) Broadleaf Plantain, Water Leaf and Madeira-vine.
(From left) Broadleaf Plantain, Water Leaf and Madeira-vine.PHOTOS: AGATHA TEO

Broadleaf Plantain, Water Leaf and Madeira-vine are edible plants

What are the names of these plants and can they be eaten? Also, can the tubers of the climber be consumed?

Agatha Teo

The plant is a Plantago species, likely Plantago major, which is commonly known as the Broadleaf Plantain. It can occur as a weed, growing in compacted, wet soils. Its young leaves can be eaten and the plant has medicinal uses.

The plant in the middle has common names such as Earth Ginseng or Water Leaf. Its botanical name is Talinum fruticosum.

Its leaves can be consumed but must be cooked thoroughly to reduce their calcium oxalate content. The cooked leaves have a slimy texture. The swollen tap root is also used in traditional medicine.

The vining plant is botanically known as Anredera cordifolia. Its common name is Madeira-vine and its leaves are eaten as a vegetable where they have a slimy texture.

The air bulbils are not reported to be eaten. The plant produces large underground tubers which, on the other hand, can be consumed.


Coleus is admired for its attractive foliage


PHOTO: MELISSA TAN

What are these plants? I bought them as I thought they were an edible type of the shiso. But a friend told me they are the coleus plants. Are they safe to grow beside my edibles?

Melissa Tan

The plant is commonly called the Painted Nettle, Flame Nettle or Common Coleus. Its botanical name is Coleus scutellarioides. The leaves of this plant do not have the characteristic scent found in Perilla leaves.

It is safe to grow it next to your edible plants and its leaves can add a burst of colour to your edible garden.


Divide Japanese bamboo into smaller plants


PHOTO: S. GOVENDRAM

I have had this plant for some years now. It seems to be quite hardy and grows well. It has about four to six hours of sunlight a day and I water it daily. However, the roots are now overgrown in the pot. How do I repot this plant and safely remove some roots without harming it? My apartment has limited space for planting.

S. Govendram

The plant is commonly known as the Japanese Bamboo and its botanical name is Dracaena surculosa.

It appears to be severely pot-bound and can be difficult to remove from its pot. You may need to break the pot to take the plant out.

You can make divisions by using a sharp knife to cut through the root ball. From the picture, you can make four divisions by quartering the root ball.

Since space is a constraint, you can keep and plant one of the divisions. The rest can be given away.

Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, an NParks-certified practising horticulturist, parks manager and ISA-certified arborist. He is the founder of Green Culture Singapore and an adjunct assistant professor (Food Science & Technology) at the National University of Singapore. He will host an Instagram Live session on growing herbs on @nparksbuzz on Monday (Nov 23) at 9pm.

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