Andrew Mangwarara —
AS much as we love our plants there are some that are not so pleasant to our senses. These plants have evolved this way to preserve their lineage by being unpalatable or in some instances to attract unusual pollinators like beetles and flies.
Not that it is a bad thing in itself, because we would not have some of those medicinal plants which help us in so many ways.
We have the likes of artemisia afra (African wormwood), which is a potent insect repellent with a powerful odour that is released if the plant is bruised. It is a common medicinal plant used to treat coughs, colds, fever, loss of appetite, colic, headaches, earache, malaria and intestinal worms, just to mention a few.
Artemisia grows in full sun and it is best to prune it down in winter so as to get vigorous growth in summer. It is an easy plant to propagate from seed, cuttings and division being a versatile plant to use in the garden as a shrub.
Another plant unusually fragrant is wild garlic (tulbagia violacea), attractive with its purple flowers; a herbal addition suitable for salads and culinary purposes.
The crushed leaves can be used to cure sinus headaches and to discourage moles from the garden because of its smell. It is a good insect repellent against fleas, mosquitos and is a particularly a drought resistant plant, which grows to 50cm and is useful as a groundcover in the garden.
Many succulents have magnificent flowers and stapelia gigantea is no exception in this category, as it produces a beautiful carrion flower that smells like rotten flesh. Its flower is also referred to as the African starfish and so resembles the same.
This rotting smell can be recognised some distance away, helping the plant to attract pollinating insects such as flies. Stapelia forms clumps one to two metres wide in the garden rockery. It can grow in a full sun position and in hotter climates in part shade.
As a succulent, grow it in a well-drained site and enjoy its drought resistant properties. Propagate the plant from seed, which readily germinate. Cuttings of the plant are easy to take while clumps are another quick alternative.
Mudzinganyoka or ruta graveleons (garden rue) is another plant best left alone because of its acrid smell. Widely grown as a charm, some believe it can repel bad luck and snakes.
It was used to treat coughs, colic, stomach aches, alleviate eye problems and to treat insect bites. It apparently has antibacterial and antifungal properties, no wonder it has been called the mother of herbs.
The seeds of this pungent plant germinate in 10 days.
Datura stramonium or the thorn apple is a Mexican plant that has become a common weed in open pasture land. It releases an unpleasant odour when touched. Used to treat asthma and to reduce pain. Apparently has some aphrodisiac properties being also used to treat toothaches, sore throats and tonsillitis.
Some of the extracts of the plant are used in modern medicine. However, it has some toxic alkaloids, so is best left to the experts.
Love them or hate them, the bad apples have some valuable purposes. Happy gardening!
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