Root Awakening: Piper ornatum is used in folk medicine

Piper ornatum
Piper ornatumPHOTO: MARY TOH
Jungle Drum
Moringa oleifera
Moringa oleiferaPHOTO: TERRI ANN LEE

Piper ornatum is used in folk medicine

What is this plant (pictured) and is it edible?

Mary Toh

The plant in the picture is botanically known as Piper ornatum. Its common names include Celebes Pepper and Sirih Merah.

It grows best in a moist and humid environment and should be exposed to filtered sunlight. It is known for its ornamental foliage.

In Indonesia, it is used in religious ceremonies and folk medicine. It is reportedly used to treat cancer, hypertension and diabetes. You should consult a medical practitioner before attempting to self-medicate with this plant.

Tip: Jungle Drum can be focal point in garden

While it looks palm-like, it is not a true palm. Its physical form, as well as its whorl of pleated leaves and stout stem, adds an interesting visual texture to its surrounding landscape. Having a cluster of this plant makes an interesting visual focal point in a garden.

This plant prefers to be grown in a location that is moist, humid and protected from strong winds. It is a good houseplant as it can be placed in a shady area and needs only four to six hours of filtered sunlight. Its soil should be moist and well- drained.


Grow air plant among other plants

I hang my air plant (pictured) in a shady area next to a window. I spray water on it three times a week.

Is the plant getting enough sunlight and water? What should I do to make it flower?

Another air plant I have died after I kept it indoors in an area where the windows are closed at night.

Why did this happen?

Laura Kok

Your air plant, which belongs to the genus Tillandsia, may not be receiving sufficient sunlight. It should be placed in an area where it can get sunlight. Depending on the species, most air plants do well when exposed to four to six hours of filtered sunlight.

Air plants, in general, prefer a humid and moist location - an environment that can be hard to create in a high-rise apartment, where it is windy and the air tends to be dry. Even regular misting may not be sufficient to keep air plants from drying out.

It may be a better idea to grow your air plant among other plants, where transpiration from the leaves of other plants creates a humid microclimate. However, make sure it still receives sufficient sunlight and has ample ventilation for healthy growth.

Moringa oleifera PHOTOS: TERRI ANN LEE

Seeds of Drumstick Tree touted as health food

What is this plant and can its seeds be eaten?

Terri Ann Lee

This is commonly known as the Drumstick Tree. Its botanical name is Moringa oleifera.

Its leaves, young fruit and, sometimes, its dried seeds are sold in wet markets in Little India. Recently, its seeds and leaves have been touted as health food because of their high nutritional content.

The Drumstick Tree grows best in a sunny spot with very well-drained soil. If it is planted in the ground, it can grow into a tree. It has weak branches, though potential arboricultural issues can be prevented if its young shoots are regularly pruned and harvested to keep it at a manageable size.


Use fine netting to prevent bees from harvesting plant

What is wrong with my plants?

The leaves of the rose plant (pictured) look like they have been eaten, while the leaves of the flame violet have brown and mushy spots.

Oei Khoen Hwa

The leaves of your rose plant are being harvested by leaf-cutting bees, which cut out circular pieces of leaf tissue and use them to make their nests. It is usually temporary and does not harm the plant.

As bees help pollinate flowers, you should not use pesticides to kill them. You may want to use a fine netting to cover the plant, so the bees cannot get to it.

The flame violet - its botanical name is Episcia - may be affected by a fungal disease.

Leaves of the flame violet PHOTOS: OEI KHOEN HWA

Heavy torrential rains or intense direct sunlight may have damaged the leaf tissue and exposed injured portions to a secondary fungal infection. Remove the affected leaves to reduce the spread of the disease and shelter your plants from the sun and heavy rain.

Flame violets produce runners - slender stems that are also called stolons - that can be detached and potted separately. They can also be propagated by stem cuttings.

• Answers by Dr Wilson Wong, a certified practising horticulturist and founder of Green Culture Singapore ( He is also an NParks-certified park manager.

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

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Root Awakening'. Subscribe