Lexical problem

Lars Martin Fosse lmfosse at GETMAIL.NO
Tue Mar 4 20:01:08 UTC 2008

I would like to thank those of you who helped me with this botanical

It would seem that reclassification is part of the problem. Here is a
summary of the relevant information:

According to the Pandanus database, agnimantha is the equivalent of premna
obtusifolia, also known as premna serratifolia. This tree/shrub was formerly
known as premna spinosa and is mentioned as such by Monier-Williams. The
tree/shrub should in principle belong to the Verbena family, but according
to Wikipedia:


several members of this family have recently been reclassified as members of
the Lamiaceae, which may explain why the premna is classified under both
family names. Furthermore, several members of both families have medicinal

Australian toothed premnas are used as firesticks by aboriginals, and the
Indian premna may well have been used in the same capacity. This web site
shows pictures of the obtusifolia:


As seen, this is now classified as a Lamiacea, whereas it used to be
classified as a Verbenacea. Klaus Mylius gives agnimantha as clerodendron
phlomoides, which in Skt. is maruvaka/marubaka. This is a small tree with
aromatic leaves. The following web site gives support for such an


It would, however, seem that Mylius' identification is wrong, although the
clerodendron belongs to the Verbena family. 

Wendy Doniger translates it as "glory-tree", which puts it in a different
plant family altogether, the Melastome family. 

In the Kamasutra, seeds of agnimantha should be collected by the mistress of
the house together with other seeds. 

It would seem that the premna serratifolia/obtusifolia fits both the herbal
and physical properties best. The Skt. name would indicate that the
tree/shrub was used to provide firesticks, just as the Australian toothed
premnas. At the same time, the premna has medicinal qualities, which would
make it meaningful to collect its seeds. (Presumably, one did not collect
seeds to grow firesticks). 

Best regards,

Lars Martin

Dr.art. Lars Martin Fosse
Haugerudvn. 76, Leil. 114,
0674 Oslo - Norway
Phone: +47 22 32 12 19 Fax:  +47 850 21 250
Mobile phone: +47 90 91 91 45
E-mail: lmfosse at getmail.no

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