Synonyms: Erigeron bonariensis, Conyza angustifolia, Conyza hispida.
Common name: Flaxleaf Fleabane, Hairy Fleabane, Ragweed, Rough conyza, Tall fleabane
Local Name: Gujju ghaa (गुजू घा)
There are two plant called by the same local name gujju ghaa in Western Himalaya, but identified by two different botanical names viz. Conyza bonariensis and conyza canadensis of family Asteraceae. As these are closely related with each other and show quite similar appearance.
C. bonariensis seems superficially similar to C. canadensis and for a layman both the plant appears same, but C. bonariensis can be distinguished from C. canadensis by its (C. canadensis) finer, glabrous, yellow-green flower heads, with distinct white ray florets on a much taller plant and broader, greener, shallowly toothed leaves or coarsely toothed margins with distinct hairs on the margins.
Plant we are discussing here with local name gujju ghaa is Erigeron bonariensis. Its extracts have been noted to have antifungal properties with possible uses against crop pathogens 1. That’s the reason provably common name Hairy Fleabane and local name gujju ghaa is given to this plant.
Gujju ghaa is commonly seen growing on waste land, around field edges, roadsides, in fallows land and in orchards upto an altitude of 1500 m in Western Himalaya. It is very well adapted to grow in rocky or stony habitat and quite often it can be seen coming from cracks in roads and pavements, or at the junction between the pavement and the road even in full summers.
Gujju ghaa is propagated by seeds. These are produced in large number, with wind the seeds leave the plant and disperses away and get transported to diverse habitat at distant places. Plant is well adapted to different environment, so it grows luxuriantly in a variety of habitats and sometimes damage house walls, concrete front yards and pathways. So, it is considered as a noxious weed to be removed.
Skin contact with the plant and other similar species of this genus can cause dermatitis in some people 2.
Young leaves of gujju ghaa are edible. These are known to have pungent acrid taste, so also used as a flavoring agent in some culinary dishes. Leaves are mixed with other wild edible greens of early summers viz Amaranthus spp, Chenopodium spp , Medicago polymorphs etc. boiled and cooked as potherb.
Gujju ghaa is collected by local people from wild habitat as a source of food, medicine and material for local personal use.
Edible leaves of Gujju ghaa can best be collected from late spring to summer end.
Gujju ghaa Plant:
Plant is an annual grey-hairy herb upto 20-120 cm tall.
Roots are well developed.
Stems are erect or ascending, leafy, branched distally or throughout, densely strigose, bristly; central stem sometimes forms branching at its base and rarely exceeds more than 4 stem branches. often overtopped by distal branches in age, Flowering stems are sometimes branches higher up the stem. Stems, young leaves and flowering parts has some short, fine, white hairs. The stem is hardly visible, since it is hidden by the numerous appressed leaves.
Leaves are 1-9 cm long, alternately arranged, linear to lance shaped or inverted- lance shaped, entire to shallowly lobed, tip blunt to pointed.
Inflorescence is flower-heads, borne many in raceme- or panicle-like clusters. Lateral clusters are often overtopping central. Stalks carrying the clusters are generally 1-4 cm long. Fresh involucres are 5-7 mm in diameter, phyllaries 2-6 mm, often purple-tipped, densely soft-hairy, whitish or dull brown inside when dry and reflexed. Pistillate flowers are very many, 3-4 mm, white, pink, or cream, narrowly cylindric. Disk flowers are 10-20, 3.5-4 mm, greenish yellow, petals short-triangular.
Fruit is an achene, 1.5 mm, elliptic, compressed, bristly.
Seeds are tiny, simple achenes with an unbranched filamentous pappus.
Young leaves of gooju ghaa are edible and eaten boiled and cooked. Best way of eating these is to mix with other greens and cooked as leafy vegetable saag.
Young leaves of gujju ghaa and other wild potherbs, 1 kg; mustard oil, 2 table spoons; coriander powder 1 table spoon; fenugreek powder, ½ table spoon; cumin seed ¼ table spoon; turmeric powder, 1/4 table spoon; red chilies, 2-3; chopped onions 2-4; garlic, 4-5 cloves; ginger paste ½ table spoon and salt according to taste.
For making vegetable additional ingredients required are partially boiled medium sized potatoes, 3-4; nutrela / Soya chunk, 2 cup amount.
For making saag boil chopped leaves till they become soft. Then mesh manually or in a mixer.Then sauté with hot mustard oil and the spices listed before in sequence. This sauted saag is then ready and can be served as such or can be mixed with 2 or 3 chopped onion and cooked for another 5 to 10 minutes before serving.
For vegetable preparation soak nutrela in water for 5-7 minutes and squeeze. Now saute partially boiled potato in hot mustered oil along with spices listed above in same sequence. Add to it squeezed nutrela, mix well and cook for 5 minutes. Now add to it separately boiled and ground gujju ghaa leaves paste. Cook for another 5-8 minutes. Garnish with garam masala and serve with rice or chapatti
Seek professional advice before treating this plant medicinally.
Gooju ghaa has only limited uses, though it is cultivated as a medicinal plant in some parts of the world, possibly for the noted antimicrobial effects 3. It shows astringent, diuretic pungent properties and used as tonic 4. It is used in treatment of diarrhea, gravel, diabetes, scalding urine and hemorrhage of the bowels, uterus and of wounds4. In Tanzania this plant have a raw use for babies who hesitates to suckle milk from their mother for this plant is crushed and applied on the nipples, which will cause to baby to suckle 4.
Gooju ghaa Plant extracts have been noted to have antifungal properties with possible uses against crop pathogens 1. It is also a source of essential oils that can be considered in the formulation of dermatological formulation to treat skin infections due to its antimicrobial and antifungal activity 4.
2. Foster, S., & Duke, J. A. (1990). A field guide to medicinal plants: eastern and central North America. The Peterson field guide series (USA).
3. USDA-NRCS, 2004. The PLANTS Database, Version 3.5. Baton Rouge, USA: National Plant Data Center. http://plants.usda.gov