Leea indica: Bandicoot berry

Family: Vitaceae
Common name: Bandicoot berry

A healthy, bushy plant commonly seen in the wild in Kerala, Bandicoot berries are mostly grown for their medicinal properties. The plant can grow to a height of 10-15 meters with a heavily-branched stem and broad, green leaves.

They are erect shrubs with a few stilt roots to hold the longer stems upright. Bandicoot berries are seen on roadsides, hill sides, backyards, empty plots and besides streams, swamps or rivers. Leaves are 40-60 cms long, alternate, with beautiful venation and serrated edges.

Young leaves are copper-red in color, turning light green and then darker as they mature. The plant produce flowers and fruits in abundance in large bunches.

Flowers are light green and white with a rounded center. Fruits are initially green, turning red and then deep red to purple on maturity. Fruits are .5-1 cm in diameter, well-rounded, containing 4-6 seeds.

A very sturdy, adaptable plant, Bandicoot berries grow in the wild without any effort. They are highly tolerant of drought, water logging, salinity, too much sun, too much shade, poor soil, fluctuating weather conditions, extreme coppicing, and almost all adverse conditions.

During rainy season, the plants thrive and produce abundant fruits, which are preferred by squirrels, mice, bats, bandicoots, birds and other small animals that help disperse the seeds. Seeds lie dormant in the soil for many months before ideal conditions arise for its germination.

Bandicoot berry plants are commonly seen in India and China, both countries using them for medicinal purposes. It is used in the treatment of cough, fever, headache, body pain, dizziness, vertigo, sores, sleeplessness, digestive disorders, cancer, stomach pain, dysentery, diarrhea, ringworms, colic, sores, rashes, allergies, insect stings and chest pain.

Tender shoots of the plant are used as vegetable, and leaves are used as green manure. These plants can also be grown in home gardens for their vibrant, green foliage. And occasionally used for common ailments, with professional advice, of course.

Bandicoot berries make good landscaping plants because of their fast-growth, thick foliage, evergreen leaves and fuss-free maintenance.

Propagation is through seeds and stem cuttings.