July 28, 2011

Pagoda Flowers龍船花 (pangil-pangil)

Do you know of flowers which seem to pop up from your "childhood consciousness"? The flowers which seem to remind you of people who helped you? The flowers which seem to remind you of people who have already gone? It is not so much the fragrance because most of them don't even smell nice. It is the colours and it is the shape !And even more so.... it is the stories which linger amongst their petals and the leaves. I have such a relationship with flowers and plants.

Their presence fill up my space...my real space and my subconsciousness- the depths of my heart . The Rose of Sharon is one of them. And today I am writing about the Pagoda Flower which is what we have always called "our kampong flower".

This is the Pagoda Flower. Is it true then that the magic in these flowers beckon me? Come here! Come here! We are here with you....

These flowers are added to bath water to bathe new born babies in the olden days when I lived amongst the Malays in Kampong Nyabor in Sibu. Today the old Kampong Nyabor is no longer there and the Malay population has moved to Kampong Bandong in Sibu. Most of my friends have migrated to other parts of Sarawak. My Kak and my father's best friend Abang Koh had long gone. Where are Dayang Ella and her family? Where are Sharifah and her family? Where are Ismail and his family? I continue to remember the brilliant pagoda flowers amongst the sireh vine and the belimbing trees....and the smell of the cempedak when the fruit was in season.

. It is believed by many Sarawak Malays that the flowers can dispel any curse or evil spirit.
Leaves and flowers pounded into a fine paste make a nice poultice. I was given this poultice by my next door neighbour (a very nice Malay lady)who  helped me with my wounds caused by some nasty wires. I kind of like to think I have no scar to show. But when one was just a child a small cut was a huge thing. But I am ever so grateful to Kak.
I have not seen it myself at Malay weddings but I have heard from many that the flowers are used to add to the  blessing water at weddings and other blessing ceremonies. These small florets are pretty and their colours range between pink to brilliant orangy red!! There are pale yellow varieties too..These small florets are funnel shaped with long tubes. Although the individual florets are only about 0.5 in long, they are arranged in massive panicles up to 1 ft or more in height, at the end of branches. The flowers within the pyramid shaped cluster are tiered, like a Japanese pagoda.  The plant can grow as tall as 5 feet in height. The leaves can be very big.
Many of my  friends  who are hunters continue to take seriously their traditional pantang when they go hunting or set traps - they usually bring some of the leaves or the flowers in their pockets and later place in the traps. Several even said that when they forgot to do this in the past they came home quite empty handed.

I remember catching lots of butterflies in the kampong in my youth. And flowers like these would be a good place to catch them. Today butterlies seem to be missing in our environment...sometimes you even say aloud...yes where have all the butterflies gone? 


What other myths surround this flower? Is it true that its roots can relieve hemorrhoids?


Many people have cooked the roots of this plant with beef tripe as a cure for hemorrhoids. How effective it is we are not sure. But tales of such medicinal usage of the roots have been floating around for ages in Sarawak.


There are tales of kampong folks who dry the flowers and roots and then blend them into powder. A teaspoon of the powder when mixed with some sweet wine or water can provide a good night's sleep. I have never tried this myself. May be one day I would or rather....should.


I hope more people will do research on this remarkable flower and perhaps find new cures for so many of our  diseases.

8 comments:

Ann said...

The plants were in the jungles of Mulu. The guide pointed it out to me.

The Malays knew about flowers in the bath. You better start your own spa, in the ideal farm you were going to have. Now, I can be your consultant.

Just watch Jamie cooking Jamine rice. he actually got a dried flower, and infused it in hot water. Then he used the liquid and flower to cook rice. trust an Ang Mo to tell me a Chinese how to cook rice.

You heard of Ivy Singh Lim in Singapore? She was the netball coach. She and her retired banker husband, they have a farm like what I am encouraging you to have,

Sarawakiana@2 said...

Thanks Ann....you are very encouraging....I will wait another year to start...but as you said...I have really get to do this with your sis's help..Great idea...

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