Today’s Belize Photo of the Day is the Piper Auritum which is commonly known as False kava or Hoja Santa. The Piper Auritum is native to Central and South America and the West Indies and can be found on forest edges. The above picture was shot at Chaa Creek’s private 365 acre nature reserve.
For years, this stupendous shrub has been mistaken to be the True Kava, Piper methysticum. After conducted research on both species of Piperaceae, studies found that the True Kava’s leaves were smaller with a darker green color whereas the False kava’s leaves were largely defined with light green leaves.
Growing twice as fast as the True kava, with its single main stem sprouting up to 19ft in height, it is not a surprise why this plant is so exceptional.
What makes this shrub truly special? Its leaves hold medicinal properties which when crushed releases an odor similar to root beer and produces an anesthetic effect that can be used to treat snake bites, headaches, swelling, colds, and hypertension. In addition, this healing plant’s leaves can be used as spice to add flavor to meats, soups, and stews.
Photo taken by Naturalist guide: Meshack Eliah