Common Name: Para Cress
Flowers and leaves
Photograph by: Mikrolit'
Free Art License
Para cress is an upright or prostrate perennial plant.
The plant is often cultivated as an annual for its edible leaves in parts of the tropics, especially Brazil[
]. It is also grown widely as an ornamental because of the attractive colourful heads[
S. America - Peru.
Found only as an escape from cultivation, growing in weedy places, usually in wet localities such as lakeside marshes[
|Other Uses Rating||
|Cultivation Status||Cultivated, Ornamental
Prefers a sunny position[
Plants have escaped from cultivation in New Caledonia, where the species is classified as 'Invasive'[
There is a wild form with much stronger flavoured leaves that is occasionally used in salads but is more commonly used medicinally, especially to treat toothache[
]. A cultivated form 'Oleracea' has milder flavoured leaves and has become very popular in Brazil both as a salad and an addition to soups[
Leaves - raw or cooked[
]. Adds a pungent flavour to salads that stimulates the salivary glands whilst having a numbing effect on the tongue and lips[
]. Eating the leaves is a memorable experience. They have a smell similar to any green leafy vegetable. The taste, however, is somewhat reminiscent of Echinacea, but lacking the bitter and sometimes nauseating element of that plant. First, a strong, spicy warmth spreads outward across one's tongue, turning into a prickling sensation. With this the salivary glands leap into action, pumping out quantities of saliva. As the prickling spreads, it mellows into an acidic (slightly metallic) sharpness accompanied by tingling, and then numbness. The numbness fades after a time (two to twenty minutes, depending on the person and amount eaten), and the pungent aftertaste may linger for an hour or more[
]. A very popular ingredient in Amazonian soup dishes, and has become the favourite vegetable for Europeans living in Madagascar[
The most common and widespread medicinal use is to treat toothache and throat and gum infections[
]. Worldwide the flower heads are used either fresh or dried and powdered, but the use of roots and leaves has been recommended as well[
The plant is further recommended as a cure for dysentery and rheumatism, and to enhance the immune system. It is used against blood parasites, especially against malaria, both prophylactic and curative[
The leaves are sialagogue[
The leaves and flower heads are analgesic, anthelmintic, antibacterial and antifungal[
]. Some of the medicinal compounds are destroyed by desiccation or freezing[
In-vitro studies have shown strong antibacterial activity against Escherichia, Klebsiella, Proteus, Pseudomonas, Salmonella and Staphylococcus. Also Candida albicans is inhibited[
Use as an insecticide has proved effective against mosquitoes and corn earworm[
Seed - requires a temperature of 21°c to germinate[
]. Germination takes place in about 2 weeks[
Cuttings when the plant is not in flower[
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