Crossandra infundibuliformis: Firecracker plant

Family: Acanthaceae
Common name: Firecracker plant, Kanakambaram

These beautiful flowers are used in garlands worn on women’s hair and also in temple decorations, especially in South India. Firecracker plants are cultivated extensively in the South Indian states of Kerala, Tamilnadu and Karnataka for these purposes. The plant is an erect shrub that grows to a height of about 1 meter. The leaves are long with wavy edges.

Firecracker flowers grow in tall, multi-layered spikes, each layer producing flowers with thin tubular stalks. The flowers have 3-5 petals that are asymmetrical with wavy edges. Flower colors vary from saffron, yellow and red. The name ‘firecracker plant’ comes from the brownish, hairy seed pods that grow after the flowers wither. These seed pods burst open dispersing the seeds around.

Firecracker plants need good sunlight and moderate quantities of water. Once the plant settles down, it can continue to produce flowers for many years, making this a favored crop for many farmers. Most temples in South India would have a small stall outside selling garlands made of jasmine and firecracker plant flowers, strung together.

There are over 50 variants of this plant with variations in flower color. A single plant can make your garden beautiful with its orange flowers, but the true beauty of this plant is seen large farms where hundreds of firecracker flowers grow together, covering the area with a glowing orange and green carpet.

Propagation is from seeds or stem cuttings, which can be planted after applying some root hormone for better success rate.

Image credits: Durga Prasad

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