Botanical name: Woodfordia fruticosa Family: Lythraceae (Crape Myrtle family)
Synonyms: Woodfordia floribunda
Fire Flame Bush is a spreading, leafy shrub, small in size but very conspicuous on dry, rocky hillsides from December to May, when the masses of little fiery bells give a bright touch of colour to the drab terrain. It is common in Sri Lanka, South Konkan and on the Ghats and ascends the Himalayas to 1500 m, but is rarer in South India. It is a deciduous shrub, usually with a much-fluted stem. The grey bark is exceedingly thin and peels off in flakes. When in flower the bush appears twiggy and formless but entirely swathed in red. This is because the small flowers grow singly or in groups all the way along the branches and side twigs, and it is at this time that the leaves fall. Each flower, borne on a tiny stem, is a slender tube, slightly curved, the greenish base of which is the sepal. Swelling slightly, the tube divides into narrow, pointed lobes and from within emerges a bunch of long stamens. The whole length, including the stamens, is not more than 2 cm. The fruit is a small, oblong capsule, covered by the withered sepals. The narrow, pointed leaves grow straight from the branches, either opposite or in whorls of three. They are harsh and dull, dark green in colour, but paler underneath. Sometimes they are dotted beneath with small, black glands. From the flowers, which contain much tannin, a red dye is obtained which is used to dye silks. The leaves also contain a large proportion of tannin and make the commonest tan in India.
Medicinal uses: This is a drug largely used in native medicine. This enters into the composition of many preparations, decoctions, churnas and ghritas for various diseases, but chiefly dysentery and diarrhoea by reason of its being highly astringent.
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