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  • Renee Smits

Oops, no olive here!

Kopsia Flavida flower
Kopsia Flavida

Meet the Kopsia Flavida!

This exotic guest, who actually belongs to Maluku, New Guinea, Philippines, Soloman and Vanuatu, surprised me in Java. Not really the standard hangout for this plant, but mainly found at Buddhist prayer places.

Why there? Well, this plant belongs to the periwinkle family and is actually a type of dogbane with 400 genera and 4,555 species.

Toxic? Oh yes, quite a bit, thanks to cardiac glycosides and alkaloids. But wait, there's more! The fruits resemble olives, but burst open when ripe, containing winged seeds.

The white flower? Innocent and beautiful, but insidiously poisonous with a milky sap.

Why then in sacred places?

Well, this plant also has medicinal powers. It is used topically for ailments such as rheumatoid arthritis and tonsillitis. But beware, too much can even mean euthanasia. Yes, serious. Asian countries see it as a 'natural' way to deal with certain diseases.

And then there is the spiritual side.

Some believe that ingesting this plant helps with communication with ancestors and gods. Officially? A psychedelic or hallucinogenic substance.

So, is it religion, faith, or just an interesting 'trip'? The discussion is open!

Anyway, this encounter with the Kopsia Flavida in Java, especially on Buddhist Candis, was a colorful mix of surprise and admiration. But let's save that fascinating Candi conversation for another time!



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