Sabah Snake Grass
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Sabah Snake Grass
P Introduced Photo: Amber Srivastava
Common name: Sabah Snake Grass, Elephant’s trunk
Botanical name: Clinacanthus nutans    Family: Acanthaceae (Acanthus family)
Synonyms: Justicia nutans, Clinacanthus siamensis

Sabah Snake Grass is a small shrub usually found in South East Asia, particularly in Malaysia and Thailand. Leaves are in paired opposite arrangement, narrowly elliptic-oblong in shape and pale green in color. It has small, soft, thin and slightly curved stem that resembles the curve of an elephant’s trunk. Thus, it is also known as Daun Belalai Gajah (elephant’s trunk) in Malay. The flowers are borne in dense cymes at the top of branches, covered with 5-alpha cymules, and combined into a large lax, leafy panicle. Calyx is 0.9-1.3 cm long, sepals linear, outside gland-tipped hairy, tip pointed. Flower are dull red with a green base, 3-4.2 cm, gland-tipped hairy on the outside, hairless inside except for a ring of trichomes about 5 mm above base; tube basally cylindric for about 5 mm and about 3 mm wide then gradually widened to about 6 mm at mouth; lower lip 1-2 Χ about 1 cm, with yellow streaks; upper lip triangular, 1-2 Χ about 0.5 cm, erect, tip notched; petals ovate, 3-5 Χ 1-2 mm. Stamens protrude from mouth of flower; filaments 1-1.5 cm, hairless, style 3-3.7 cm, base sparsely velvet-hairy. The ovary is compressed into two cell and each cell having two ovules in each cell. Capsule is oblong, basally contracted into a short, solid stalk 4-seeded. Seeds are 2 mm in diameter 14 . The cylindrical stem turns into yellow when it becomes dry The leaves of Sabah Snake Grass can be consumed as raw vegetable or mixed with other juices. The dried leaves of this plant can be soaked in hot water and served as tea.
Medicinal uses: is widely known in traditional medicine in Malaysia and Thailand due to its medicinal properties in treating skin rashes, insect and snake bites, and skin lesions caused by virus. It has also been used to treat diabetes mellitus, fever, diarrhea and dysuria. Recently, there are many C. nutans products available in market in the form of herbal tea, capsules, tablets and concentrated plant extracts.

Identification credit: Amber Srivastava Photographed at Sant Asharamji Ashram, Lucknow.

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