Root Awakening: Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow plant, sawtooth coriander and sulphur cosmos

The Brunfelsia pauciflora is commonly known as Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow because of the changing colours of the flowers as they age. PHOTO: CORINNA TOH

Flowering plant is Yesterday-Today-Tomorrow; cuttings are flower clusters of the neem

I am trying to find out the names of two plants in my garden. The first has white and purple flowers which emit a lovely lingering fragrance in the evening/at night.

The second is a cutting I bought from a Thai supermarket in the vegetable section. The staff did not know the English name, but said it is a bitter vegetable and the entire plant can be eaten. He also mentioned it is popular in Thailand.

Corrina Toh

The potted shrub with scented flowers is commonly known as Yesterday-Today-and-Tomorrow and its botanical name is Brunfelsia pauciflora.

The plant is named as such due to the changing colours of the flowers as they age, from purple to violet to finally almost white, before they fade.

The cuttings are from the neem tree, and do not make good propagation material. PHOTO: CORINNA TOH

The cuttings from the Thai supermarket are the inflorescences of the neem tree (Azadirachta indica). They do not make good propagation material and are not likely to root.

If you want a neem plant, it would be better to buy a sapling from the local nursery.

Herb is the sawtooth coriander

The sawtooth coriander is easier to grow in Singapore, and its leaves are more strongly flavoured. PHOTO: JOYCE LAY

I was told this is a basil plant, but it does not resemble basil plants I checked online.

Joyce Lay

The plant is the Sawtooth Coriander (Eryngium foetidum).

It is an alternative to the true coriander that is easier to grow in the lowland tropical climate of Singapore. The leaves are more strongly flavoured hence a small quantity is needed for cooking.

It thrives in a location that gets at least four hours of filtered sunlight and the soil should be kept moist at all times.

Sulphur cosmos is edible

The flowers and the tender young leaves of the sulphur cosmos are edible. PHOTO: PATRICK HO

What is this plant? I was told the plant and its flowers are edible. Is this true? If so, how may they be consumed?

Patrick Ho

The plant is botanically known as Cosmos sulphureus and its common names include Sulphur Cosmos and Yellow Cosmos.

The plant is an annual which is grown from seeds and sold as a festive plant for Chinese New Year in Singapore. There is a also a yellow-flower cultivar.

Both the flowers and tender young leaves are edible. They can be deep-fried or sauteed. The blooms can also be added to salads.

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.

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