Know the Etymology: 137
Place Name of the Day: Tuesday, 22 September 2009




The locality of Kuppuzhaay (Vernonia zeylanica) vegetation

Kuppuzhaay Also, Kuppuzhai: A shrub (Kathiraiver Pillai’s Tamil Dictionary); A kind of creeper, the leaves of which serve as food for cattle (Winslow’s Tamil Dictionary); Vernonia zeylanica of the family of Asteraceae, a plant endemic in the island of Sri Lanka; Pupula: The Sinhala name of the plant

Kuppuzhaay or Kuppuzhai
Kuppuzhaay or Kuppuzhai: Vernonia zeylanica. [Photo courtesy: Royal Botanic Gardens - Peradeniya,]

Kuppuzhaay, also called Kuppuzhai in Tamil, is a shrub or a creeping plant that is found close to water resources. It is also sometimes found growing in the gaps between stones lining inner walls of wells.

Known as Vernonia zeylanica in Botanical terminology and Pupula in Sinhala, the plant is endemic to the island of Sri Lanka and is known for its medicinal properties.

Applying chewed leaves of the shrub to cut injuries has been noticed in Jaffna.

The leaves of the shrub have a unique smell.

While known as a fodder for cattle, the leaves are also edible for human consumption. A dish of fried Kuppuzhaay leaves mixed with scrapped coconut is known in some parts of the Jaffna Peninsula.

The antinociceptive potential of the plant has been established by, W D Ratnasooriya, S A Deraniyagala and S K J S Peiris of the Colombo University in a recent study in 2007. According to them, the plant traditionally recommended for the treatment of boils and bone fractures, has revealed the presence of alkaloids, phenols and steroids and it has safe and moderate oral antinociceptive action.

Plant and animal names and names of inanimate objects or landscapes taking ‘An’ suffix in Eezham Tamil, to mean location, has been discussed in many of the previous columns (Examples: Vi’laan: the locality of Vi’laa trees; Chaa’lampan: the locality of Chaa’lampai trees; Karampan: the locality of Karampai shrub or the Karampai nilam, i.e. the barren land; Kadduvan: the locality of the bund; Vedduvaan: the expanse, etc)

In the same way, the locality of Kuppuzhaay vegetation became Kuppuzhaan. Local people confirm the presence of this vegetation in the locality.

Kuppuzhaan is a village in the Valikaamam South division of Jaffna district. The toponym nowadays is often written as Kuppizhaan.

First published: Tuesday, 22 September 2009, 14:09

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