“Duppy Gun” – Mysterious exploding plant…

Ruellia Tuberosa

Known in Jamaica as “Duppy Gun”

As a child, I was fascinated with this exploding phenomenon.  It was such fun to place the little brown pods in the palm of my hand, spit on it (as my Dad showed us) and wait with bated breath for it to explode.

Many times, my siblings and I would gather a mass of pods for greater effect.  It was as if the pods came to life, each one giving a slight movement just before it popped open, stinging a little as the seeds connected with our bare arms and legs.  The sound effects were similar to firecrackers, on a tiny scale.

Apart from providing hours of entertainment for children, the Ruellia Tuberosa has a more important element.  In some countries, the plant is used medicinally in the treatment of gonorrhea, hypertension, urinary retention, diabetes and also as a natural dye for some textiles.

The bulb-shaped roots are used in Suriname for treating kidney disease and whooping cough, while in  Trinidad & Tobago it is used as a “cooling agent” for urinary problems and high cholesterol.

Jamaican herbalists make a tea from the roots which they say is good for coughs, constipation, flu, venereal diseases, as well as,  inflammation of the stomach and intestines.

A scientific study performed on the Ruellia Tuberosa confirms the presence of  potent anti-oxidant activity.

(http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0308814604008027 )

The Vietnamese have traditionally soaked its roots in rice wine for a long time before consuming the alcohol. They use its leaves to cook soup and consume it for cooling the body, especially the liver.  In the Dominican Republic  it is used as an ingredient in a concoction for  male potency.

I must give thanks where thanks is due.  Having only a fond memory of spitting on these pods, I did not know where to begin to find information on this strange popping plant.  Not for the life of me could I recall a name or even remember if it had one.  I tried several search criteria with no success.  

I was so frustrated.  I wanted so badly to give life to this precious memory, but then figured after several fruitless attempts that maybe no-one else found this mysterious exploding plant as interesting as I did.  Finally, about to give up, I decided to search one more time and simply looked for  “plant that explodes”.  In a matter of  seconds, I came face to face with my childhood memory. Extracting the plant name “Toi-ting lead me to other names for the plant, one of which was Duppy Gun – then it clicked!   http://youtu.be/h0SPN1bylQg

Watch as these folks get shot from the Duppy Gun:  http://youtu.be/tjOvKAT1A7I