The common wireweed (Scientific name Sida acuta) is a flowering plant species belonging to the mallow family, called Malvaceae. The common view is that this species has its origin in Central America. However, in present times, the common wireweed is found throughout the tropical regions of the world and, in some regions, this plant is considered to be a weed.
People in Australia consider the Sida acuta to be an invasive plant, and they have introduced the beetle Calligrapha pantherina, in the form of a biological agent aimed at checking the spread of the common wireweed.
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Common wireweed is a small herb or shrub that grows erect and is profusely branched. This plant grows up to a height of anything between 30 cm and 100 cm and has a robust taproot. The alternately arranged leaves of this herb are slender, acute, lanceolate with jagged margins. The leaves measure 1.2 cm to 9 cm or even more in length, while their width is between 0.5 cm and 4 cm. The underside of the leaves is smooth and come with light, small, branched hairs that are star-shaped (stellate). The veins of the leaves are rather prominent. Each leaf comes with petioles that measure 3 mm to 6 mm in length and are hairy. The petiole comes with a couple of stipule. While one stipule is lanceolate-linear and measures 1 mm to 2 mm wide having anything between three and six nerves, usually curved and has delicate hairs, the other is relatively narrow and one to four nerved.
This species produces yellow flowers that measure about 1 cm to 2 cm in diameter. Infrequently you may also find some common wireweed plants bearing whitish blooms. The flowers may be borne solitarily or in petite clusters in the axils (upper leaf fork). The petals of each common wireweed flower comprises five petals, which may come in light yellow, yellow or even pale orange hues and measure about 6 mm to 9 mm in length. Each flower also comprises five typically hairless sepals that are about 5 mm to 8 mm in length each. These sepals have a pale green hue and they are fused at the base forming a calyx tube and having pointed tips like acute calyx lobes. In addition, each flower of this species have copious, roughly 100, tiny stamens, whose bases are fused, and an ovary that is topped with a solitary style divided into anything between 6 and 10 branches at the tip of the flower. Common wireweed is usually in bloom towards the end of summer. However, some plants of this species may even flower around the year, provided the plants are grown in conditions favourable to them.
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The small fruit of common wireweed has a solid structure (schizocarp) whose color changes from green to deep brown when it ripens. These fruits measure about 2 mm to 6 mm in diameter and are broken up into five to eight segments each enclosing a solitary seed (mericarps) when they are completely mature. The seeds or mericarps have a wedge-like shape and measure about 1.5 mm to 2 mm in length and come with two sharp awns measuring 0.5 mm to 1.5 mm long at their top. The true seeds are enclosed in these mericarps and they are relatively small measuring only about 1.5 mm in length. The color of the true seeds may vary from reddish-brown to black.
Often people mistake Sida acuta for Sida rhombifolia, however it is possible to differentiate common wireweed from plants of the latter species as they have relatively small as well as narrow lanceolate leaves. On the other hand, the leaves of Sida rhombifolia are almost diamond shaped (rhomboid), in addition to smaller flower pedicels.
Leaves, roots, seeds.
Common wireweed is used extensively in the form of a traditional health medicine to treat a variety of health conditions. Aside from its therapeutic uses, this species is also employed in a number of spiritual practices. This herb is used for curing various ailments, very often for treating fever. This plant is administered orally as well as applied topically. For instance, formulations prepared from S. acuta are taken orally for treating fever, while a paste prepared from the plant is applied directly to the skin for treating skin complaints as well as snake bites. This plant may either be used alone or together with other herbs, depending on the disease being treated or the treatment plans of the healers.
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In traditional herbal medicine, it is frequently believed that S. acuta is useful for treating health conditions like headaches, fever, skin complaints, dysentery and diarrhea. In addition, the oil extracted from this herb is also employed topically with a view to alleviate pain. It is said that this oil is excellent for treating arthritis and other related health conditions.
Common wireweed is also used to treat conditions like dropsy. The soothing effects of this plant help to ease the skin. In addition, this herb is a wonderful parturient, which is employed to facilitate child birth. S. acuta is also said to be a useful herb for treating venereal diseases or ailments transmitted during sexual intercourse.
It has been established that oral use of S. acuta helps to alleviate the symptoms related to fever. Moreover, this herb is also a useful analgesic and is often prescribed for treating body aches. People practicing natural medicines also use this herb to dress open wounds.
Common wireweed is also a general herbal medicine for treating renal problems. This plant is also known to be very effective for treating rheumatism and symptoms associated with this condition. Additionally, S. acuta is also employed for treating nervous disorders.
Sida acuta is also useful for curing spermatorrhea, a condition wherein men discharge semen even with no orgasm. This herb is also a natural libido enhancer and is effective for both men and women.
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This herb is also effective for toning up the heart. The root of this herb possesses astringent properties and, hence, it is effective for treating problems related to the blood as well as bile. Moreover, the root and seeds of common wireweed are useful when used in the form of a tonic to treating urinary and nervous diseases.
As the name suggests, common wireweed is actually a weed widely distributed in the tropical as well as semi-arid regions across the world. Occasionally, this species is also found in the sub-tropical regions and places having warmer temperate climatic conditions. This is an extremely invasive plant, spreading rapidly in pastures, open woodlands, crops, gardens, roadside and waste areas, plantations, disturbed sites and even waterways, for instance the riparian vegetation.
Common wireweed is a perennially growing herbaceous plant that has a long life span. It also grows as a small shrub or a semi-shrub and generally attains a height of anything between 30 cm and 100 cm. On some occasions, you may also find this plant growing up to a height of 1.5 meters. Nevertheless, in the wet-dry savannas in the northern part of Australia, common weed often has a short life span and grows as an annual plant.
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Sida acuta generally reproduces by its seeds, which attach to clothing, animals and various other materials quite readily.
Chemical analysis of the common wireweed (Sida acuta) plant has revealed that the root of this species encloses a number of alkaloids like ephedrine, phenethylamine, betame, hypaphorine, vasicinol, siephedrine, vasicine and vasicinol. Incidentally, all these alkaloids can also be found in the aerial parts of the herb. In addition to alkaloids, the root of this species also encloses alpha-amyrin and a hormone called ecdysterone. The entire common wireweed plant encloses another alkaloid called cryptolepine, which has shown antimicrobial as well as hypotensive activities.
The seeds of common wireweed contain 0.26 per cent of these alkaloids, while the roots have just 0.066 per cent alkaloids.