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A Native Photo: Ankush Dave
Common name: Gisekia • Hindi: बालु का साग Baluka-sag, Balukar-sag, मोरंग Morang, सरेली Sareli • Kannada: ಅತ್ತರಿಫಲ Atthari phala, ಅತ್ತಿರಿಫಲ Atthiri phala ಇಸಕುಧಾರಿ Isakudhaari • Marathi: वालुचि भाजी Valuchi-bhaji • Sanskrit: aluka, elavaluka, valuka • Tamil: கொகிலீ Kokili, கொகிலீகீரை Kokilikkirai, Manal-kirai • Telugu: బాలుకా సాగ Balukasag, esakadantikurra, Isaka dantikura
Botanical name: Gisekia pharnaceoides    Family: Molluginaceae (Carpetweed family)
Synonyms: Gisekia linearifolia, Gisekia molluginoides, Gisekia rubella

Gisekia is an annual herb, 20-50 cm, prostrate. All parts are streaked with linear white raphides. Leaf-stalks are poorly defined, 2-10 mm; leaf blade elliptic, lanceshaped, or spoon-shaped, 1-2.5 cm x 4-10 mm, both surfaces with many white raphides, base narrowed, tip blunt or somewhat pointed. Flower clusters are mostly stalkless, apparently in leaf-axils, densely umbel-like. Flowers are 5-20. Flower-stalks are 3-5 mm long, tepals 5, green (to red), ovate, 1.5-2 mm, tip pointed. Stamens are 5, about 1 mm; filaments flattened and dilated at base. Carpels are 5; styles short. Mericarp kidney-shaped, mostly spiny tuberculate, sometimes also some smooth, surrounded by persistent tepals. Gisekia is found in open, sandy habitats, often near the sea, or in deserts, at low elevations. It is found in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam; tropical and subtropical Africa.
Medicinal uses: In East Africa the whole plant is eaten as a general strength restorative, typically after miscarriage. In northern Africa Gisekia is considered a purgative, in Kenya, Tanzania, southern Africa and Madagascar it is taken to cure diarrhoea. In India, Indonesia, South Africa and Madagascar it is used as a taenicide, but the plant should be consumed with great caution. In West Africa leaves are rubbed on swellings and in Tanzania the stem, pounded in butter, is placed on aching muscles. In India plant sap is used against warts. In Tanzania cooked green leaves are eaten to treat asthma, in Kenya the roots are made into a chest medicine. The seeds probably possess anthelmintic properties.

Identification credit: Ankush Dave Photographed in Agra, Uttar Pradesh.

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