Wild Spider Flower
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Wild Spider Flower
ative Photo: Ankush Dave
Common name: Wild Spider Flower, African spider-flower, Cat whiskers, Bastard-mustard • Hindi: jakhiya, safed hulhul, parhar, safed bagro • Marathi: पांढरी तिलवन Pandhari tilvan, kanphodi, mabli • Tamil: taivelai, nalvelai, velai, acakanta • Telugu: vaminta, thella vamita, thivezhai, vaaminta • Kannada: kiloni, kirikaala, maamballi gida • Sanskrit: अजगंधा Ajagandha
Botanical name: Cleome gynandra    Family: Cleomaceae (Spider Flower family)
Synonyms: Gynandropsis gynandra, Cleome triphylla, Cleome pentaphylla

Wild Spider Flower is an erect herbaceous annual herb, which is branched and rather stout. Depending on environmental conditions, it can grow up to 1.5 m in height, but is usually 0.5-1.0 m tall. It has a long tap root, with a few secondary roots with root hairs. Stems and leaf petioles are thickly glandular. They exhibit variable pigmentations, from green to pink, or violet to purple. Leaves are alternately arrnaged and stalked. Each leaf has 3-7 leaflets, but most commonly 5 (rarely 3-4), which are pinnately dissected and stalkless. They vary from obovate to elliptic in shape, and are usually 2-10 cm long and 2-4 cm wide. They have finely toothed margins or round ends. Inflorescence is quite showy, and is usually up to 30 cm in length. The flowers have long stalks. The bracts are much smaller than the leaflets. The flowers measure 1-2.5 cm in diameter, and have 4 sepals, 4 narrow clawed petals, and 6 stamens with long purple filaments, arising from a much elongated receptacle. The petals are white, pale, pink or lilac. The fruit is a long-stalked, dry, spindle-shaped capsule measuring up to 12 cm long and 8-10 mm wide. Throughout Africa, the tender leaves or young shoots, and often the flowers, are boiled and consumed as a potherb, tasty relish, stew or side dish. Fresh leaves are used as ingredients in other mashed foods, and dried leaves are ground and incorporated in weaning foods. The leaves are rather bitter, and for this reason are cooked with other leafy vegetables such as cowpea. Flowering: July-August.

Identification credit: Prashant Awale Photographed in Dhule, Maharashtra & Bayana, Rajasthan.

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