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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Sida: An important shrub of overgrazed lands

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Sida is a shrub belonging to Malvaceae, a family of dicot flowering plants. Though a very important plant with great medicinal value, it grows and passes away without gaining due regard from men and animals. A field rat or a rabbit may rest under the shade of some of its shrubby species, or use it as a cover against enemies. Some insects though rarely, a lady bird may try to scrap and chew its leaves. Most of the cattle don’t try even to kiss this plant. Some of these appear as miniature trees.

Common names of Sida sp.

Sida has a number of species. Some very common of these are – Sida cordifolia, Sida glabra, Sida spinosa, Sida rhombifolia, Sida urens etc.

Sida cordifolia L. syn. Melochia cordata, Sida humilis, Sida veronicifolia, is known as Country Mellow, Funnel weed, and heart leaf sida in English. In Japan it is know as ke dong. Nepalese call it Balu.Its Sanskrit name is Bala. In Spanish it is called as llima. Tamil people in India call it Chitaemuttie. Its names in other languages are- Bhumi Petari in Marathi, Kurunthotti in Tamil, Benda,gayapaku and Tirunala in Telugu; bek kinathale gida, in Kannad; Bhoy bala in Gujrati; and Bhumi bala, Naga bala in Sanskrit.

Sida glabra Mill. Is called as smooth fern petal in English; Balai cinq-heures in French, and Escobilla, Escobilla dulce and Malva blanka in Spanish.

Sida spinosa L. is called as Valu in Nepalese and it is lesser known species.

Sida rhombifolia L. is native to the New World Tropics. It is also called as arrow-leaf sida, Cuban Jute, Paddy’s Lucerne, Queensland hemp, and Tea weed in English. In French it is called as Faux. InGerman it is called as Kubajute and in Nepalese it is called as Sanno cilyaa. In Spanish Sida rhombifolia is called as Exoba, Escobilla, Escobita ceniza, Huinar, Malva prieta and Popotalagua.

Sida urens L. is called as Tropical fanpetal in English, and Khetri in Hindi. It is called as Marubakingo in Japanese, and Balai-zortie in French. It is known as Kedong in Chinese, Bala in Tibetan and Arival in Tamil. Related to the Marsh mallow plant called Sida cordifolia in Latin, it is thorny shrub with heart shaped leaves.

Sida acuta

Sida glabra

Sida rhombifolia

All photographs by the author

Habit and Habitat

Sida plant with a number of species is a perennial or annual sub-shrub or shrub growing 0.75 to 1.5 m in height. Leaves are simple, stipulate, stipules threadlike to narrow lanceolate; the leaf base is entire or sometimes lobed with dentate margins. Stem is cylindrical, branched, hairy, fibrous and deep green. Roots of Sida are shallow tap roots, profusely branched and strong. The plant flowers through out the year. Flowers are solitary, or paired, axillary or sub terminal raceme or panicle. Calyx campanulate, or cup shaped, 5 lobed. Corolla is mostly yellow, rarely white or rose to purplish in colour. Sometimes a dark centre is seen. Corolla consists of five petals, free and basically connate. The filament tube is pubescent or glabrous with many anthers at the apex. Ovary is five to ten loculed, ovules one per locule, pendulous. Style is branched as many as carpels. Stigma is capitates. Fruit is schizocarp, disc shaped or globose; mericarp (4-)5-109-14), sculptured or smooth; partly membranous, puberulent. The fruit is a ribbed capsule which breaks up into 8 to 10 segments. Seeds are smooth, gray to black in colour.

Sida is a common weed which is distributed through out tropical and sub-tropical India, Ceylone and America. It is distributed to New World Tropics and sub-tropics. Some taxonomists regard some species of Sida to be native to American countries. It grows in waste places, overgrazed lands, in jungles, in planes and even up to an altitude of 1050m.

According to Wagner (1990) a species of Sida known as Sida fallax is indigenous to Hawai’i where it commonly occurs on all the main islands and also on midway Atoll and Nihoa. It is also widespread on islands across the pacific to China. In Hawai’i, Sida fallax grows on rocky sandy coasts, on raised limestone reefs, lava fields, and dry to moist forests, rarely all the way to the wet forest.

Ecological value
Sida has numerous species. Some are liked by herbivores but others are not, probably due to its ephedrine content. It usually grows in pastures competing with overgrazed grasses. Though an important medicinal plant it is uncared in India. In some European countries, it is grown as fodder for deer. Some species of Sida are cultivated as fiber plant.

Wagner, Warren L., Darrel R. Herbst, and S.H.Sohmer.1990. Manual of flowering plants of Hawai'i.2vols.,Bishop Museum special publication 83. Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press and Bishop Museum Press.p.897-898.

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