Tridax daisies

After yesterday’s broad look at the Aster family, I stepped closer to look for plants that I could identify. The Tridax daisy (Tridax procumbens) is the one I recognize quickly in the field. It has five ray florets, each such “petal” is deeply notched to give it the appearance of three fingers. The main reason I learnt to recognize it is because the straggling stems with upright flowers can be seen across India. Now, near Dotiyal village in Kumaon, about 2700 m above sea level, I was happy to meet a familiar face.

The featured photo is not of a flower that helps identification, since it has lost its characteristic ray florets . But I liked the way the dew had collected on it. Other flowers were more easily identified. But in the process of taking those flowers, I have caught a fly which I can’t identify. If you are a fly fancier, could you help?

Jakham-judi

Weed. Invasive plant. Pest. The Tridax daisy (Tridax procumbens) seems to have little going for it in more vocal parts of the world. I’d been seeing this in my monsoon walks around the Sahyadris and mentally marked it as a daisy on first look. But eventually I realized that it is not. It has only five ray petals, although each is deeply notched into three. It is a totally different genus, although it lies in the same family, the asters (Asteraceae). Like all members of this family, the disk florets each have five petals, as you can see in the photos here. One of its local names, ekdandi, reflects the specific name procumbens, which refers to the observation that the stem lies prone on the ground, sending up isolated vertical shoots which each bear a single compound flower with a yellow center and white rays.

But this native of the tropical Americas has been adapted to folk medicine across India. It’s well-documented use in the treatment of wounds has earned it the name Jakhamjudi (wound healer) in Marathi. But, as I learned from a review of its pharmacology, it has multiple uses, from the treatment of diabetes to countering falling hair. One does expect hardy weeds to be a veritable factory of bio-active chemicals, and modern pharmacology profits from screening such widespread weeds. As we heard from a chef specializing in sustainable food, “Waste is a lack of imagination.”