Nasturtiums Tropaeolum

Introduced from South America, Tropaeolum is now found in South and North Americas, Europe and other parts of the world. Tropaeolum, commonly known as Nasturtium, is a flowering plant that produces vibrant blooms, providing ornamental beauty to gardens. The Tropaeolum genus consists of about 80 species. Nasturtiums are versatile plants that have been grown and used for centuries. The old-fashioned nasturtium species, Tropaeolum majus is very popular among gardeners.

Plant description

Nasturtiums occur as annuals or tender perennials that grow from spring through autumn. They are hardy plants that are draught-resistant and thrive on neglect. Some species of nasturtiums are climbing vines, while other species are bushy and spreading. There are different varieties such as dwarf and variegated species of nasturtium.

The height of nasturtium plants depends on the species or variety. Spreading varieties grow to heights ranging from 9 to 16 inches and climbers grow to heights of 3 to 15 feet. Leaves of different species of nasturtium are peltate, shield shaped, palmate or lobed.

One of the notable characteristics of nasturtiums is that these plants produce showy blossoms that come in a range of colors varying from creams, yellows, oranges, reds and burgundy colors. Nasturtium flowers usually have five frilled petals which are 2 to 5 cm in diameter and the flowers assume the shape of a trumpet. The shape and color of the flowers are unique to the particular species. Nasturtium flowers consist of a funnel shaped long spur which carries sweet nectar.

Seeds of nasturtium plants contain a considerable amount of saturated fats. These unsaturated fats are found in the oil produced by the plant.

Uses of nasturtium

Humans have been using nasturtium for a very long time for a variety of uses including ornamental uses, medicinal uses and culinary purposes. The showy, colorful and charming blooms make the landscape more eye-catching. They can be grown to decorate borders or brighten a rock garden. Climbing types can be trained on trellises or grown along fences.

Nasturtiums can be used to biologically control pests that infest vegetable gardens. They are widely used as companion plants to ward off bothersome pests such as black aphids, squash bugs, cucumber beetles, caterpillars, cabbage whiteflies and slugs. As nasturtium blossoms have vivid colors they also attract beneficial insects such as butterflies.

All parts of the nasturtium plant can be used for medicinal purposes. Though some of the medicinal uses of nasturtiums may not be approved by modern doctors, they have been used to alleviate different illnesses. Nasturtiums bear antiseptic properties. Ground leaves and petals can be used topically to treat cuts, scrapes, acne and skin irritations. The leaves and petals are used to prepare a tea that is used as a remedy for respiratory infections and diseases of the urinary tract. It is also used to prevent scurvy, and stimulate the digestive tract.

Nasturtium plants are not only colorful but also edible with a peppery taste. The flowers, leaves, seeds, seedpods and oil are consumed in a variety of dishes ranging from salads, soups, entrees to a few desserts. It is also used as a condiment and to garnish. Leaves can be eaten raw and enhances the flavor of fresh mixed salads. The flowers which taste like hot watercress and rich in vitamin C are consumed similarly in salads. Pickled seeds are used as a caper substitute.

Growing nasturtiums

Nasturtiums grow well in sunlit areas, with some species preferring partially shaded areas to grow. They grow easily in well-drained, nutritionally poor and moist soil. They are propagated by seeds in early spring. Nasturtium seeds take about 14 to 21 days to germinate. Nasturtium plants do not require outside help to disperse their seeds as they can self seed. In rich soil nasturtiums are more lush and produces heavy foliage but with fewer flowers. Seeds should be sown into their permanent location or in peat pots that can be planted into the soil.