FoI
Shikakai   
Foto info
Shikakai
P Native Shrub
Photo: Pravin Kawale
Common name: Shikakai, Soap-pod • Hindi: Kochi, रीठा Reetha, शिकाकाई Shikakai • Marathi: रीठा Reetha • Tamil: Shika, Sheekay, Chikaikkai • Malayalam: Cheeyakayi, Chinik-kaya, Shikai, Cheenikka • Telugu: Cheekaya, Chikaya, Gogu • Kannada: Sheegae, Shige kayi, Sigeballi • Oriya: Vimala • Urdu: Shikakai • Assamese: Amsikira, Kachuai, Pasoi tenga, Suse lewa • Sanskrit: Bahuphenarasa, Bhuriphena, Charmakansa, Charmakasa, Phenila
Botanical name: Acacia concinna    Family: Mimosaceae (Touch-me-not family)
Synonyms: Acacia hooperiana, Acacia sinuata, Mimosa concinna

Shikakai is a climbing, most well-known for the natural shampoo derived from its fruit. Thorny branches have brown smooth stripes - thorns are short, broad-based, flattened. Leaves with caducous stipules not thorn-like. Leaf stalks are 1-1.5 cm long with a prominent gland about the middle. Leaves are double-pinnate, with 5-7 pairs of pinnae, the primary rachis being thorny, velvety. Each pinnae has 12-18 pairs of leaflets, which are oblong-lanceshaped, 3-10 mm long, pointed, obliquely rounded at base. Inflorescences is a cluster of 2 or 3 stalked rounded flower-heads in axils of upper reduced leaves, appearing paniculate. Stalk carrying the cluster is 1-2.5 cm long, velvety. Flower-heads about 1 cm in diameter when mature. Flowers are pink, without or with reduced subtending bracts. Pods are thick, somewhat flattened, stalked, 8 cm long, 1.5-1.8 cm wide.
Medicinal uses: Shikakai is a commonly used herb that has many remedial qualities. It is popularly referred as "fruit for the hair" as it has a naturally mild pH, that gently cleans the hair without stripping it of natural oils. Shikakai is used to control dandruff, promoting hair growth and strengthening hair roots. Its leaves are used in malarial fever, decoction of the pods are used to relieve biliousness and acts as a purgative. An ointment, prepared from the ground pods, is good for skin diseases.
Identification credit: Pravin Kawale
Photographed in Alibag, Maharashtra.