IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis


26th July, 2023 Environment

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  • Silver cockscomb, also known as lagos spinach or Celosia argentea, is considered a troublesome weed by many due to its rapid spread and potential to harm other crops.
  • However, for the Soliga tribe in Karnataka's Chamarajanagara district, this plant holds a significant nutritional value and is considered a nutritious leafy green vegetable.


Traditional Knowledge of the Soliga Tribe

  • The Soligas are known for their traditional ecological knowledge, which recognizes silver cockscomb as a valuable resource.
  • They use the plant as a nutritious addition to their diet, especially during the monsoon season when it grows abundantly on fallow land and tolerates drought-like conditions.

Silver Cockscomb's Properties

  • Also known as lagos spinach, silver cockscomb belongs to the Amaranthaceae family, which includes economically important plants like spinach, beetroot, and quinoa.
  • The plant is a short-lived 50-60 cm-tall with simple, spirally arranged leaves and pinkish or silky white flowers.

Nutritional Benefits and Culinary Use

  • The Soliga women collect edible leaves and young shoots of silver cockscomb to prepare a nutritious mash called massanne, which helps reduce body heat and stomach burn.
  • It is a common part of their diet during the rainy season, from July to December, when the plant is abundant.
  • The tribe uses silver cockscomb leaves and young shoots to prepare side dishes like palya, cooked with various legumes such as field beans, chickpeas, cowpea, or pigeon peas.

Scientific Studies on Silver Cockscomb

  • Recent studies have highlighted the medicinal benefits of silver cockscomb.
  • Researchers from Vijayanagara Sri Krishna Devaraya University found that its stem and root extracts have antibacterial properties, protecting against microbial pathogens.
  • The plant is rich in nutrients like beta-carotene and folic acid, with "medium" levels of vitamin E, calcium, and iron, according to the World Vegetable Center.
  • Compared to spinach, it has lower levels of oxalic acid and phytic acid, making it safer for kidney function.

Traditional Use and Global Prevalence

  • Silver cockscomb is commonly used in traditional Chinese and Indian medicine to treat eye diseases and ulcers.
  • It has long been known and used by communities worldwide for its medicinal and nutritional benefits.
  • Its prevalence extends from tropical Africa to South and Southeast Asia, Latin America, and parts of the US and Australia.

Soliga Tribe

  • The Soliga tribe is an indigenous community that primarily inhabits the Biligiri Rangan Hills (BR Hills) in the Chamarajanagara district of Karnataka, India.
  • They are one of the prominent tribal groups found in the southern state and have a rich cultural heritage and unique way of life.

Cultural Significance

  • Traditional Knowledge: The Soliga tribe has a deep connection with nature and possesses extensive traditional knowledge about the forests, flora, and fauna of their region. They have acquired this knowledge over centuries and have relied on it for their sustenance and well-being.
  • Traditional Practices: The Soligas follow age-old practices of agriculture, hunting, and gathering. They have a sustainable lifestyle that involves harmonious coexistence with nature, making them natural conservationists.
  • Spiritual Beliefs: The tribe follows animistic beliefs and worships various deities associated with nature, including the sun, moon, and spirits of the forest. Their rituals and festivals are centered around nature's cycles.

Livelihood and Economy

  • Agriculture: The Soligas practice shifting cultivation or slash-and-burn agriculture. They clear small patches of land for cultivation, grow crops like millets, pulses, and vegetables, and then shift to a new plot after a few years, allowing the old land to regenerate.
  • Forest-Based Livelihood: Besides agriculture, the tribe heavily relies on the forest for their livelihood. They collect non-timber forest products (NTFPs) like honey, fruits, tubers, and medicinal plants for consumption and trade.
  • Hunting and Gathering: Hunting and gathering have been integral to the Soliga's traditional lifestyle. They hunt small game and gather forest produce for food and other daily needs.


While silver cockscomb may be considered a troublesome weed by some, the Soliga tribe's traditional knowledge and use of this plant as a nutritious vegetable highlight its value in promoting food security and well-being. Further research and documentation of its traditional use can contribute to recognizing it as a superfood with both nutritional and medicinal properties.


Q. Which of the following statements about the Soliga Tribe is/are correct?

1. The Soliga Tribe is indigenous to the state of Karnataka, India.

2. They are known for their traditional knowledge of ecology.

3. The tribe follows animistic beliefs and worships various deities associated with nature.

4. Silver cockscomb, also known as lagos spinach or Celosia argentea, is considered a troublesome weed by them.

A.      Statements 1 and 2 are correct.

B.      Statements 2 and 3 are correct.

C.       Statements 1, 2, and 4 are correct.

D.      Statements 1, 2, and 3 are correct.

Answer: D