A succulent invasive plant
Published on: Sunday, May 01, 2022
By: Eskay Ong
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A fan-shaped flower with only four petals.
IT IS odd to note that while some plants have been branded as invasive, undesirable and disruptive, others are highly valued and treated with velvet gloves and molly coddled with tender loving care.  

The unfair treatment of the comparables of both sides of the narrative comes from the uses, juices and pecuniary advantages that can be extracted to benefit the ones that call the shots.  At the end of the day, the most desirable and treasured ones are those that yield good benefits and high profits.

This is quite similar to doing something with potential to profit from, although facing certain risks, or to investors who are willing to plunk in billions in certain countries, states or businesses with full confidence of profiting from such moves.

With invasive or undesirable plants, the first instinct is that they are of little or no value to all and most probably are more of a burden than benefit. This is irrespective of whether or not they have attracted investor confidence, or with just a few beginners who are trying out new plants.  

On the balance of probabilities, it is normal for most to steer clear of valueless plants unless some bright sparks can be found in them someday that can add value to them. Then all of a sudden, the demand will shoot through the roof.  

A good example is the demand for ornamental yam plants during the last couple of years. My guess is that the naturally occurring plants in the jungles were ripped clean, or nearly so, including leaves, corms and roots.

Plants of Fringed Spider Flower can really squeeze in somewhere for space to grow.


 A flower terminal.  

A trifoliate leaf with three diamond shaped leaflets.  

These were repacked in attractive pots where some varieties with sizes reaching 20-30cm in height were sold for a couple of hundred ringgit each. Such potty business was indeed a boom which enriched many people, including, hopefully, many poor kampung folks who were lifted out of absolute poverty.  

Small as the plants may be, the more attractive ones have the power to create such a demand that cash machines were made to ring nonstop, which goes to show that in large quantities, little things have the ability to create wants and desires which can be leveraged on by the government or businesses to enrich everybody.  

I have already elaborated many times in the past on such subjects which I believe must be correct as can be seen in the increasingly large number of outlets, either stand-alones or tumpang-tumpang types, selling potties.

This is indeed good news for the underprivileged especially those in the rural areas bordering on the fringes of jungles to scrounge around and be bountifully rewarded with some amazing finds.  

In fact, for the sake of eking out a simple living with sufficient food on the table, foraging in the jungle has been an ongoing activity or some kind of second nature for numerous folks in the ulus.  

From there, they will bring out their collection to tamu grounds or at locations with small business opportunities in the city or other urban areas. Even the Sunday Gaya Street Fair often has plenty of such jungle produce for sale.  However, it is not certain if permits are required for common jungle stuffs to be taken out of their natural habitat.

Monetising whatever that grows easily

Whoever rakes something out from nature, primes them up, and then pushes them out at the local tamus or outlets in the city, is sure to be in luck. This is because these days, nearly everything sells or is in demand in busy places.  

Moreover, when people are flushed with cash, such as during certain seasons when the biggest employer in the country is splurging largesse around, the time is never more opportune for vendors to rake in a few extra bucks for the family.  

Some even say that even grasses too sell better during such seasons, which is very true as lawn grasses such as Axonopus compressus which carries common names such as Cow Grass, Rumput Parit or Tropical Carpet Grass, are in demand especially the more expensive, uncontaminated ones.  

The even more expensive fine-bladed grass such as Cynodon dactylon or Bermuda Grass is also in demand when money flows around freely and easily.  And that is for grass only.

On the other hand, ornamental flowering plants over the last few decades, don’t seem to lose out much whatever the situation.  In fact, it is getting better and better by the day as evidenced by the large number of varieties of plants of all shapes, colours and descriptions that are put for sale in the market.  

And when they are set in outlandish containers such as rusty tin cans, cracked and chipped bowls, badly dented aluminium pots and kettles, the contraptions can be quite eye-catching.  This is what some people say that when art combines with horticulture, the result can be very mesmerising.

These are the reasons why simple, humble but vigorous plants such as Cleome rutidosperma, are able to thrive both as uncultivated form in nature, as well as the cultivated ones in pots or cans.  

Bearing such down-to-earth common names such as Wild Cat’s Whiskers, Fringed Spider Flower and Purple Cleome, the plant is indeed simple and down-to-earth, carries no airs and does not splash around large blooms with dazzling colours.  

Instead, the flowers of Fringed Spider Flowers are comparatively small in size and are borne at the end of a long flower stalk that spread out from the stem at a near 90º. The plant has a peculiar flower shape with its odd petal distribution and orientation.  

There are only four petals on each flower with all of them standing up erect or nearly vertical and they are all spread out like a hand fan.  

Unlike Licuala or Serdang Fan Palms which can truly be made into hand fans thereby earning the gardening enthusiast some money for lunch or dinner, all the fan-shaped flowers of Fringed Spider Flowers are not worth a dime as they cannot be made even into a kid’s fan.  

This is because the flower petals and leaves are just too small and delicate to be made into anything usable, except for its use as items of food, traditional medicines, and of course, ornamental plants for decorative purposes where the soft pinkish purple-coloured petals are items to behold in an environment of stress and tension.

As ornamentals, this is where the money lies in the proverbial pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Because the plant is quite small, non-splashy and low-lying, it is seldom taken notice of and is therefore usually consigned to the out-of-sight corners, below the garden potted plant racks, or behind the backyard walls.  

But this does not prevent the sharp eyes of keen gardening enthusiasts from scanning around and focusing right on the Fringed Spider Flowers. The fact that the plant, in many locations, carries many negative connotations such as invasive or weed plant, this does not prevent its sparkle from being noticed and then coddled home in more appropriate growing conditions such as an enriched cultivation bed or beautiful planting pots.  

That a hardly-seen plant can be treated with tender care and attention is easy to understand when one realises that the leaves of the plant actually bear a resemblance to diamond crystals. Each individual leaflet is a section of the trifoliate leaf structure, and when observed closely, the leaflets appear to be diamond-shaped.  

Moreover, a healthy potted plant usually grows up in the shape of a diamond with a pointed apex at the top and a broader base at the bottom. 

These information should send many true followers of feng shui or those who are pantang to scamper around looking for a simple plant called Fringed Spider Flower, in the hope that good fortune may befall those who cultivate such plants lovingly. Hot news like this may sometimes send the price through the roof, thus benefiting the underprivileged and shifting them out from having to live from hand to mouth.

Fruits of the Fringed Spider Flower are cylindrical in shape with each measuring about 4-7cm in length and 0.3-0.5cm wide. They are green during the immature stage, but when it matures, it turns into a pale to dark brown colour. A slight explosive mechanism releases the seeds which are extremely tiny and are dark brown to black in colour.  

Normally, the seeds measure 1.0-1.5mm in diameter and these are dispersed around the plant with a spread of about 1.0m. Very often, ants or rain water help to disperse the seeds to a much greater distance which thus ensures a better and wider coverage for the variety.

Although the Fringed Spider Flower is a humble plant, nevertheless, it has beneficial uses that not many are aware of. In traditional medicines, the know-how in many aspects is passed down from generation to generation, as can be attested to by any singsang or experts in folklore remedies.  

These avenues allow for the plant to have a place in tackling minor health issues as they are believed to possess antimicrobial, antifungal and deworming benefits.

Besides that, the Fringed Spider Flower is also a mouth-watering edible where they are cooked in various ways and served with piping hot rice, sizzling soup and fiery sambal. With these delectable selections, an additional plate of rice for the evening should be in order.

Invasive power of Fringed Spider Flower.


A green immature fruit capsule. 

A colony of small seedlings.


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December 20, 2014