- History and Culture
Dianella ensifolia is a small evergreen, perennial herb with grass-like leaves growing from a branched, gradually spreading rhizome. It can grow up to 1.5 meters tall, and the spreading horizontal rhizome often forms dense colonies. The plant had 5-12 leaves that are distichous (arranged alternately in two vertical rows on opposite sides of an axis). They can be up to 50 cm long with the basal part folded lengthwise and flattened and has a midrib that is narrowly winged and bearing small forwardly pointing prickles. The plants have small blue-purple flowers and the fruit are like pearl berries.
It is found in Madagascar, Mauritius, Reunion and possibly on the other islands of the Western Indian Ocean. In Africa, it is found on the lower slopes of the Chimanimani Mountains in Mozambique and Zimbabwe. It also exists in north-western India and adjacent areas. D. ensifolia can be found in the shade, in lowland as well as high altitude perennial forests. They form colonies under the canopy and also form clumps in open spaces, near streams and rivers. It is a species that grows very quickly and can colonize an area quickly. Its fruit are dispersed by birds whose seeds are viable and germinate easily in nature and in gardens.
This species is said to be of ‘Least Concern’ on the IUCN Red List and is protected under the forest restoration project. Plants are often uprooted by wild pigs, which disturb the soil in search of food.
The disposal of its fruit in a circle on the peduncle, resembles a crown, hence its vernacular name Queen of the Woods.
The plant is sometimes picked in the wild and used as medicine, insecticide, pesticide and dye. It is grown as an ornamental plant.