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Feb 27, 2009

Useful Plants at the Farm - Gliricidia Sepium

This is a plant from Central America, now endemic in Malaysia.  It is an inconspicuous and not particularly pretty small tree. You will see it by the road side growing wild. It is known as 'pokok pagar' locally.  In our farm, it serves multiple functions.

As a shade tree and windbreak
It is extremely fast growing and takes root even in poor soil.  It is an excellent fixer of atmospheric nitrogen and before too long, the soil where it is planted can be used to plant more nitrogen demanding plants.
Because of its fast growth, we plant it everywhere in the farm as a carbon seqeuster to reduce our carbon footprint arising from the carbon dioxide and methane emissions from the animals.
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Here it is as a living fence.  It will never rot, all we need do is to trim it, and it performs as a post while sequestering carbon.  Isn't nature wonderful?
The leaves make an excellent insect repellant and it can be used as fodder for goats due to its high protein content.  However, because of its high tannin content it is not suited for other ruminants and chickens.
The leaves can also be used to quicken the ripening of bananas and papayas.
The wood can be used as fuel wood and also to convert to biochar. 
The tree produces pretty pink flowers which can also be used as an insect repellent. flowers1.gif
Maybe because of the pretty flowers you can sometimes find them lining certain streets.by the road.gif                                   
But during the flowering season, pity the poor road sweeper.
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Useful Plants at the Farm - Cassia Alata

You have most probably noticed this plant at the roadside, especially near earth-drains and low-lying wet areas.  It is called Cassia Alata or Gelenggang.

Originally from South America, it is now endemic to Malaysia.  It has strong fungicide properties, the active ingredient of which is chrysophanic acid.  We use it to spray on vegetables and fruits during the wet season.
It is also used as an anti-fungal for humans and animals - we pound the leaves, add salt and some cooking oil and apply it to the skin.  Ringworm will be cured in two days.
Occasionally, we make a tea out of the leaf.  We dry it and then roast it lightly before storing it.  When needed, we use one or two leaves to make a mild tea.  It is diuretic, mildly laxative and apparently lowers blood sugar.
The 'feel-good' factor after drinking this tea may come from its systemic anti-fungal effects once it is ingested.