Written by Siddharth Badri (Ethnobotany scientist)
Palangka Raya is a unique small town with trees growing along the pavement, beautiful gardened homes and spaces where nature thrives without human alteration. Wild species growing in and around the city center are used by locals for medicine and food. They thrive in disturbed areas, after-burn environment, open spaces and some on the surface of tree trunks.
Trees and shrubs are found in back alleys, abandoned sites, along footpaths, and around parks. The most common one is Korsen (Muntingia calabura). It’s small red juicy fruit is relished by humans, birds, small mammals and insects alike. Urban wilderness ensures the widespread of fruiting shrubs around Palankaraya by dispersing their seeds.
An invasive small shrub known as Karamunting (Melastoma malabathricum) produces a peanut shape purple fruit, that can serve as a delicious afternoon snack. Its leaves are collected, mashed up with a sprinkle of fresh water to prepare a fine paste to apply on open wounds as an antiseptic.
The aesthetically appealing pink flower is used for decorative purposes, and its water is extracted to use as a remedy for eye pain. Cemot (Passiflora foetida) is a creeping vine that grows on trees, walls, pillars and anything that provides support. Almost every time I walk around town, I see children eagerly plucking its orange fruit and caterpillars grazing away at the leaves.
If you plan on saving some money, just walk around Palankaraya, talk to the friendly locals and collect your share of free and healthy wild edibles. But be warned, it gets hot, really hot to the point where it feels like a 24/7 Sauna.