A small- to medium- sized size tree that grows to 4 to 6 m all. Trunk is often slanted and branches are crooked. Bark is light grey to brown in colour and deeply corrugated. An important feature of the tree is its silky, hairy, fleshy light green leaves, which have a silvery grey lustre. They are simple, obovate to oblanceolate in structure, 10 to 20 cm long and 3 to 12 cm wide and arranged spirally at the branch tips. Inflorescence is large, hairy, consisting of numerous small, white sessile flowers. Flowers are about 0.6 cm in diameter and 0.2 cm in height with five lobed calyx and corolla. Fruit is round, small, 0.2 to 0.8 cm long, greenish white to brown in colour, which divides into two to four nutlets. Seeds, two to four in number, are enclosed in a corky tissue.
Velvetleaf soldierbush's facts
This species have medicinal properties. It has been suggested that it may be of value in the treatment of ciguatera poisoning contracted from the consumption of reef fish.
Velvetleaf soldierbush's Behavior & Ecology
This tree is an important component of the strand plant (means restricted to coastal environment) community. It is commonly found on beach sands and rocky coral limestone slopes, indicating its adaptation to shallow, well-drained and infertile soil. It is highly tolerant to salt spray. It can grow very close to sea.
Velvetleaf soldierbush's Reproduction
This tree can be propagated easily by seeds and cuttings. Fresh seeds can be directly sown without any pretreatment or seedlings can be grown in nursery and outplanted. Since it is slow growing seedlings may take long time, up to one year, to reach a size (about 35 cm tall) suitable for outplanting. Hardened or green woodcuttings 15 to 30 cm length can be used for planting.
Velvetleaf soldierbush's Relationship with Humans
Historically in the Maldives the leaves were often used as famine food. Sea heliotrope is important for its ecological benefits. It acts as a barrier against aerosol salt spray, as a windbreak on exposed coasts and as a stabilizer of coastal soils. In the Maldives, wood, which is lightweight and strong, is used as oars for small boats called bohkura. It is also used to make small implements used in boat. It is also used for firewood. According to some of the elders, young leaves were once widely used as salad. Leaves were cooked with rice and fish after removing the midrib and cut into small pieces to prepare a delicious food namely, boshi baiy. Liquid from flowers are used for making medicines to treat skin diseases. Bark and flowers are chewed with areca nut. It is a candidate species for multispecies coastal bioshield in atoll environment and can be planted in the front rows along with other salt spray tolerant plants.