Pilea microphylla: Rockweed

Family: Urticaceae
Common name: Rockweed, Artillery plant, Artillery fern, Gunpowder plant

A tiny wild plant, very commonly seen on top of stone walls, edges of compounds walls, cracks in pavement tiles and in unbelievable nooks and crannies everywhere. Rockweeds can grow to a height of 30 cms with green, succulent leaves that are about 4-6 mm long.

They are fast-spreading with long, horizontally-growing stems that can cover a pot, or a large area in your garden. Rockweeds look like miniature ferns due to their thick branching stems covered with leaves, and hence are called Artillery ferns as well. The name Artillery plant comes from the explosive action with which male flowers discharge pollen into the air.

They prefer indirect, filtered sunlight, growing well in corners where bright sunlight cannot burn their leaves brown. They also have tiny, green and pink flowers which can be seen only when you look very very closely. Rockweeds can take periods of drought as well as heavy rainy seasons, thriving well in warm, tropical weather.

There is variegated plant called Tricolor artillery fern with pink, white and green leaves which are slighty larger than the normal ones.

Rockweed plants are used in traditional herbal medicine for their antibacterial and antioxidant properties. The leaves are used to treat sores, bruises, inflammations and infertility. Infusion of the rockweed plants is used as a diuretic.

Propagation is from stem cuttings that root reasonably well.

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