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Sunday, July 22, 2012

A rare epiphytic medicinal weed: Peperomia pellucida

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This isPeperomia pellucida. It is also called as radiator plant or baby rubber plant. It is one of the 2 large genera of family Piperaceae, with more than 1000 species recorded so far. Most of them are compact, small and perennial epiphytes growing on rotten wood. The current one in photograph has been recorded growing on rotting rose roots. These plants are basically concentrated to Central America and Northern South America. A limited number of species have been recorded from Africa. In India P. pellucid is recorded growing as weed in Jharkhand, Bihar, and some parts of Uttar Pradesh.  

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Though varying considerably in appearance these species generally have thick, stout stems and fleshy leaves, sometimes with leaf windows. Peperomia flowers typically come in yellow to brown conical spikes. These tropical perennials are grown for their ornamental foliage. They are mostly natives of tropical America. They are compact and usually do not exceed 12 inches (30 cm) in height. They vary considerably in appearance. Some have threadlike, trailing stems and some have fleshy, stout stems. The leaves are smooth and fleshy and may be oval with the leafstalk at or near the center of the leaf blade, or they may be heart-shaped or lance-shaped; their size may vary from 1–4 inches (2.5–10 cm) long. They may be green or striped, marbled or bordered with pale green, red or gray and the petioles of some kinds are red. The tiny flowers are unnoticeable and they grow in the form of cordlike spikes.

Study yielded 5 new bioactive compounds: two secolignans, two tetrahydrofuran lignans, and one highly methoxylated dihydronaphthalenone. Proximate analysis of leaves yielded high ash content, a higher crude fiber content, and a still higher carbohydrate content. Mineral analysis showed low manganese, iron, zinc and copper, with high sodium content. Phytochemical screening yielded alkaloids, cardenolides, saponins and tannins.

About a thousand species of Peperomias have been described, mainly from South America although a few (17) are found in Africa. Many of these plants are perennial epiphytes growing on rotten logs having thick stems and fleshy leaves, while some with leaf windows. Most Peperomias have tiny flowers which are packed into a characteristic greenish or brown conical spike like an inverted catkin. A few species have more attractive flowers such as the white, scented clusters of spikes produced by P. fraseri from Ecuador.

Many species of Peperomia are non- succulent and a few of these are popular house plants. A variety of cultivars of P. caperata with attractively marked foliage are widely available through the horticultural trade, and a variety of compact Peperomias can some times be found among selections of plants intended for bottle gardens.

VARIETIES: P. acuminata; P. capreata (Emerald Ripples); P. clusiaefolia; P. crassifolia; P. griseo-argentea; P hederaefolia; P. incana; P. rotundifolia; P. obtusifolia variegata (Variegated Baby Rubber Plant); P. rubella; P. sandersii; P. Sandersii variety argyreia; P. velutina; P. maculosa; P. glabella (Wax Privet) & its variety variegata.
The plant Peperomia pellucida has been known for its medicinal properties. It is considered anti-inflammatory, refrigerant, analgesic, anti-fungal, and anti-cancer.

Key Words: Peperomia, medicinal, weed, anti-inflammatory

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