Cyanthillium cinereum: Little ironweed

Family: Asteraceae
Common name: Little ironweed, Poovamkurunnila, Asian ironweed, Fleabane, Purple fleabane

A common plant with tiny, purple flowers, Little ironweed plants are seen in the wild in most parts of India. They can grow a height of 2-3 feet with a well-branched, green stem and small, oval leaves. These leaves could be oval or oblong shaped, larger leaves towards the base of the plant and smaller ones towards the top.

Little ironweed plants produce large bunches of flowers on tall stalks raised high above the leaves. Young flower buds look white with green sepals enclosing them. Once the flowers become mature, they turn deep purple with thin disk florets radiating upwards. The flowers do not open fully, but retain a vase-shape with slightly bulgy sepals and hair-like purple petals.

Once the flowers mature into seeds, the sepals open up completely holding many long brown seeds, having white tufts of hair at the end, called pappus. These seeds are wind-dispersed like dandelion seeds and can fly long distances, helping the plant spread to new areas.

This is one reason Little ironweed plant is considered an invasive weed in various parts of the world. In India, these plants are seen on roadsides, hillsides, backyards and open areas.

Though it is considered an invasive weed, little ironweed plants have many medicinal uses in traditional and Ayurvedic medicine. The entire plant including the seeds and roots are used to prepare medicines for fever. Poultice made from the plant is used to treat cuts, wounds, burns, skin diseases and headaches.

Little ironweed plants are also used in treatment of swellings, inflammation, stomach pain, kidney disorders, diabetes, leprosy, worm infections and cough. The flowers are used in treating conjunctivitis.

Roots are used in treatment of dropsy, scorpion stings, hemorrhoids, diarrhea, stomach disorders, boils and parasitic worm infections. Seeds of little ironweed plants yield a fatty oil, which also has medicinal uses.

Propagation is through seeds. Each plant yields hundreds of seeds that fly in the wind, spreading the plant to new locations.

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