Heliotropium indicum: Indian heliotrope

Family: Boraginaceae
Common name: Indian heliotrope, Indian turnsole

Indian heliotrope is a very common weed with a uniquely curved arrangement of small white flowers, commonly seen on roadsides, open areas, waste lands, and pastures. They are native to the tropical regions of India, Malaysia, and Indonesia, but they have also spread to other parts of the world, such as Africa, Australia, and the Americas.

Indian heliotropes are small, bushy annual or perennial herbs that can grow up to 60 cm tall. The leaves and stem are covered with small, stiff white hairs giving them a velvety sheen.

The stem is green, hairy, and branching, and it has a strong, pleasant fragrance that attracts bees and other pollinators. Leaves are simple, dark green, lance-shaped, arranged alternately along the stem, about 10 cm long.

Indian heliotrope flowers are small and white, arranged in clusters at the tips of the branches, the ends of the inflorescence coiled beautifully like a rainbow.

Flowers are present only on the uppper surface of the infloresence. They have a slight fragrance and bloom from summer to fall. The fruit is a small, about 3mm long, rough-textured nutlet containing four seeds.

Indian heliotrope plants are quite sturdy and drought-tolerant, growing well in a variety of weather conditions. They can stand harsh sunlight, heavy rainfall, waterlogging, poor soil conditions, and overcrowding. The fragrance from the flowers attract bees, insects, and ants that help pollinate the flowers. These plants are not invasive and can be removed easily by handpicking.

Indian heliotrope has been used in traditional medicine for centuries to treat a variety of ailments. The plant contains several bioactive compounds, including alkaloids, flavonoids, and glycosides, that have therapeutic properties.

They have anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antimicrobial, antioxidant, and anticancer properties. Hence these plants are used in the treatment of warts, diabetes, inflammations, headache, heat rash, tumors, skin diseases, ulcers, diarrhea, asthma, conjunctivitis, cold, cough, stomach ailments, arthritis, rheumatism, fever, respiratory ailments and more.

Propagation is through seeds.