Mitracarpus hirtus: Tropical girdlepod

Family: Rubiaceae
Common name: Tropical girdlepod

A plant very commonly seen in the wild in India, Tropical girdlepods have multiple levels of leaves and flowers. Tropical girdlepod plants are erect with thin green stems covered with velvety hairs. Leaves grow perpendicular to the stem from the nodes, 5-10 leaves at each node.

Small white flowers grow in bunches are the axils of the leaves, the angle between the leaves at the stem. The leaves and flowers at different nodes gives the plant a very interesting look, with white pom-poms all along the stem.

Because of the height of the stem, and the weight of flowers are each node, the stems are quite weak and can bend down or become slanting to the ground with just the tip pointing upwards. With some support from other plants are trees around, Tropical girdlepod plants can grow to a height of about 1 foot with branching stems.

Leaves are lance-like and long with a single prominent dent at the mid-vein, and almost no other venation. Flower bunches can grow to a diameter for 5-7 mm with over 10 tiny sepals and flowers arranged very close to each other. They have a small corolla tube and four distinct petals fused at the base.

Topical girdlepod flowers have prominent anthers and stamens; and are usually pollinated by insects and ants. The flowers then produce tiny fruits that are about 1 mm long containing brown-colored seeds.

They are common weeds on hillsides, grasslands and unoccupied areas in India, though urbanization is now threatening the survival of this beautiful plant. They have some medicinal uses in healing ulcers.

Propagation is through seeds.

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