Know your Mangroves

Acanthus ilicifolius (Commonly known as Sea Holly)








This prickly plant, which can grow to 2 metre tall, is predominantly found in the mangrove zones closer to water line. It generally grows on high tide mark Its shrubby nature and spiny leaves make it an outstanding species. It is versatile, and flourishes even on degraded areas. Large population of the plant indicates degradation of mangrove ecosystem.

Generally this plant does not show any above ground root modifications. Leaves are glossy green with lot of spines. When this plant is growing in deep shade the leaves tend to develop fewer prickles. Salt glands are present on the leaf surface, through which the plant throw out the excess salt. It is possible to see and/or taste the salt on the leaf surfaces of the species. Purple or white flowers are pollinated by bees or small birds. Pods are shiny green, oval shaped capsules that propel the seeds away from the plant using a spring like mechanism. It often serves as a distress source of fuelwood. The flowers and leaves are used for decoration in Kerala.

Acanthus is used as desiccant, and has many medicinal properties.

Leaves are used for rheumatism, neuralgia, diabetes, dyspepsia, hepatitis and leprosy. Fruits are used for asthma, to purify blood and aphrodisiac.It is also useful in treating kidney stones, skin allergy, snake bite.



Dr. Maya Mahajan
Associate Manager
SP Godrej Marine Ecology Centre