Common name: Shiny bush, Shining bush plant, Pepper elder, Man to man, Slate pencil plant, Rat’s ear, Silverbush, Clearweed, Mashithandu, Vellathandu
Shiny bush plant is a small, succulent-stemmed, shallow-rooted wild plant seen very commonly in Kerala. Its succulent stems were used by children to clean their writing slates in olden days, and hence it’s also called Slate pencil plant.
These tiny herbs only grow to a height of 1-1.5 feet with heart-shaped leaves, which are glossy and succulent, about 3-4 cms long. Stem is erect and cylindrical, hairless, with nodes every 3-4 cms. They are very beautiful and translucent, spreading beautifully along the ground and then bending at the nodes and growing erect.
Shiny bush flowers are very interesting, growing as tall spikes from leaf axils, the angle between leaves and stem. Tiny fruits and seeds are formed on these tall spikes, initially green, later turning brown like tiny mustard seeds. The plant has a mustard-like odor when crushed.
Though these plants are seen on roadsides, open areas, backyards and riversides; it has high medicinal value. They are used in treatment of headache, cough, cold, fever, sore throat, hypertension, cholesterol, kidney ailments, proteinuria, joint pain, boils, colic, acne and a variety of other illnesses. Shiny bush plants has analgesic, antibiotic, antipyretic and anti-inflammatory properties.
These plants can be eaten both cooked and raw, or added to salads. Shiny bushes flourish during rainy season, growing in clumps where the soil is moist, but not water-logged.
Many studies have been conducted on the chemicals extracted from this plant, and it shows promise as a potential plant to develop new drugs from. But urbanization has led to a decrease in the population of this plant in its natural habitat. Shiny bushes are now grown as ornamental plants to add to succulent collections in home gardens.
Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.