Saturday, March 17, 2007

Pisang-pisang - Michelia figo (Lour.) Spreng.


Michelia figo (Lour.) Spreng. or also called Michelia fuscata (Andrews) Walls. is amongst the fragarant flowering plants I have in my garden. Everytime I water my plants in the vicinity of this plant I could pick up the fragrance of the flowers that are in buds. I have never seen them bloom except on very rare ocassion. SO this time around I was just mumbling to myself asking the plat why I only see the buds but never see the flower bloom. Viola!! The next morning seems like magic I get to see several of the buds blooming in great spendour releasing the fragrance contianed there in. It was really wonderful and today I have a few in full view. I remember the fragrance since my younger days. My mother had it growing in our family home and knowing I was a enthusiatice gardener she one day showed me this plant with flowers imparting the fragrance of banana. She aptly called it bunga pisang or banana flower. Sometimes she calls it pisang-pisang.

The fragrance is due to
isobutyl acetate depicted below. This compound is a solvent used in pharmaceutical industries


This plant is native of Southern China and is distributed throughout East Asia. In China it is called 含笑花 (Ham Siu fa) or Smiling flower. It is the favourite of women in Hong Kong in the past where they place one or two flowers in their hair to impart the fragrance as they walk pass people. Today such natural fragrance has been replaced by artificial perfumeries.

It is basically planted as ornamentals for the fragrance it imparts. However, it have found some used in medicine where it is known to have a vasodilatory effects and has been advocated in the treatment of hypertension. It is also cardiotonic and thus used to strengthen the heart. The leaves are also used to make fragrant tea. In Indonesia it is used as a hair tonic to treat alopecia. The flower on the other hand is used to treat vertigo when 5 - 10 flowers is steep in hot water and the resulting tea is drank to relieve the veritgo.


Thai researchers has isolated two bioactive alkaloids from the leaves of the plant i.e magnoline and magnolamine which prove to have potent antimalarial activities agianst both chloquine resistant and chloroquin sensitive Palsmodium falciparum.

(http://www.scisoc.or.th/stt/31/sec_n/paper/stt31_N0006.pdf)







4 comments:

said...

Hi, I came across your blog entry regarding this "ham siu fa" flower and I have been trying to buy the plant but Sungei Buloh here in KL doesn't seem to have it!! Saw the tree in my friend's garden and would love to grow one myself. Great if you could recommend a nursery here that might have the tree/plant.
Thanks!!

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Vincent said...

Thank you for the interesting post. I hope you do not mind my citing you as a source in the reference section of a post I am writing on Ruellia tuberosa.