Vallaris solanacea: Bread flower

Family: Apocynaceae
Common name: Bread flower, Vishappala, Dudhi ki bel, Adukottapala

Bread flower plants in bloom are very beautiful indeed with clusters of cream-white, cup-shaped flowers, adorning the whole plant. They are native to India and Burma, but are now seen in tropical countries all over the world.

The stem is long, thin, greyish-white, capable of being trained to climb on trellises, arches, pergolas, or other supporting structures. Leaves are green, waxy, about 15 cms long, and 6 cms wide. The stem and leaves are covered with thin, downy hairs; and exudes a white latex when cut.

Flowers are the distinguishing feature of the Bread flower plant, white or pale green, cup-shaped flowers that grow in large clusters from the leaf axils, the angle between leaves and stem.

Leaves and flowers are fragrant, and the scent is like that of newly cooked rice, or basmati rice. The lower end of the flower is tubular about 1 cm in length.

Stamens at the center of the flower are also white and arranged beautifully. Fruit is a long follicle, about 12 cms long and 3 cms wide, containing tiny seeds having a tuft of hair at one end, for wind dispersal.

These plants are primarily grown as ornamental plants, though the latex can be used to treat skin ailments and ringworm infections. The plant is used in the treatment of pain, diarrhea, and inflammations. Bread flower plant branches are used for making roughly woven baskets.

These plants should be planted in bright sunlight and well-drained soil for them to bloom well. They are reasonably drought-tolerant. But since they bloom profusely, it is better to water and fertilize them regularly to grow healthy plants.

Bread flower plants can be pruned into desired shapes and kept compact as hedges or border plants. The fragrance attracts birds, bees, and butterflies that help pollinate the flowers.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.